World leaders gathered in the western Turkish province of Canakkale Friday to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign.
“One hundred years ago, on this front, hundreds and thousands of our soldiers sacrificed their lives for the sake of their land and honor,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. “But today, we are here to give the message of peace.”
Erdogan attended a ceremony at Martyrs’ Memorial in Canakkale to mark April 24-25, which is known as Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who fought and died on Turkish soil.
Having called on all the nations who left behind the old feelings of hatred and revenge and attended “the peaceful organization” in Gallipoli, Erdogan said, “Today I want to express my gratitude to those countries for sharing our messages of peace.”
“The world really needs it (peace),” he added.
The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the battle in the Dardanelles Strait in Canakkale province’s district of Gallipoli, which served as a turnaround in favor of the Turks fighting in World War I against the Allied Forces.
On April 25, 1915, eight months into World War I, Allied soldiers landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula. The troops were there as part of a plan to open the Dardanelles Strait on Turkey’s Aegean coast to Allied fleets, allowing them to threaten the Ottoman capital Istanbul.
The Allied Forces, however, encountered strong and courageous resistance from the Turks and the campaign turned out to be a costly failure.
Tens of thousands of Turkish nationals and soldiers died, along with tens of thousands of Europeans, plus around 7,000 – 8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders (Anzac).
The president reminded the audience of the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish Republic’s founding father, who said: “You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”
“Canakkale is not only a symbol of victory for us,” Erdogan said. “It also symbolizes our losses.”
During the ceremony, Erdogan and Britain’s Prince Charles laid wreaths at the memorial in honor of the Turkish martyrs and then the national anthem of Turkey was played. The event included a number of parades by the Turkish air force and navy.
The heir to the British throne Prince Charles also spoke during the ceremony.
“It is indeed an immense privilege to join to commemorate the individuals (who) fought courageously on this peninsula a century ago,” he said.
Stating that the Battle of Galippoli is a striking reminder that the Great War was truly a world war, Prince Charles said, “Not only (because) its combatants were drawn from so many different nations, but also because its effects were truly global.”
The prince called on all people, leaders, communities and nations to find ways to overcome intolerance and to fight against hatred and prejudice in pursuit of greater harmony.
At least 21 heads of state attended the ceremony in Canakkale.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and President of the Syrian National Coalition Khalid Khoja were among those who attended the event.