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Promise to protect Anzac graves
The Australian

TURKEY's Prime Minister said today his country would do everything necessary to protect the graves of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli.

Visiting Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish and Australian Governments had been unfairly accused of damaging the historic World War I battleground while building a new road through the national park.

Work on the road was suspended earlier this year after the discovery of bone fragments and amid concerns the site had been irreparably damaged.

Mr Erdogan and Prime Minister John Howard discussed an Australian proposal to list the site under Australian heritage laws during a meeting at Parliament House today.

While no agreement was reached, Mr Erdogan said he had appointed three of his senior ministers to oversee the Anzac Cove works.

"We will do everything that we need to do to achieve a good result," he told a lunch in his honour in parliament's Great Hall.

"Three of my ministers have been instructed by myself to work on this.

"At the moment we have completed 60 to 70 per cent of the work to be done and once it has been completed, I'm sure that you will be very happy with the results."

With 20,000 Australians visiting the narrow peninsula every year, most of them on Anzac Day, Mr Erdogan said Turkey wanted to make the site easy and safe to visit, and to ensure that monuments and museums were maintained.

"There was a lot of confusion and a chaotic situation in Gallipoli until very recently," Mr Erdogan said.

"We've been working very hard in the last three years to make sure that the monuments are kept well and the roads are being reorganised and rearranged to ensure easy access.

"We are very respectful of history.

"We are carrying out our work on Gallipoli based on those principles the founder of our republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, said - that your sons are our sons now.

"This is true today too. Your sons lie side by side with our sons so it is unthinkable for us to have any sort of discrimination between the two."

He also hoped tourist operators could work on packages to encourage Australians who travelled 20,000km to Gallipoli to see more of Turkey's historic places.

Mr Erdogan said a great friendship had developed between Australia and Turkey since the Gallipoli landing or the "Canakkale war" which went on to result in 26,111 Australian and 86,692 Turkish casualties.

Mr Howard, who first proposed listing the site on Australia's heritage register in 2003, said Australia respected Turkey's sovereignty over the area.

"Australia, as it is well known, is interested in preserving the historic character of the area and we are in discussion with the Turkish government regarding a proposal to list (under) Australian legislation in Australia, the Gallipoli peninsula as a site having special historic significance," he said.

"Such a listing of course fully respects Turkish sovereignty."
 

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