In inaugural ANZAC Day statement, U.S. highlights bond with Australia, NZ

The United States has issued its first-ever statement commemorating ANZAC Day, honoring the sacrifices of Australian and New Zealand forces and the strong bonds between the three countries without mentioning Turkey.

“On this day, the 104th anniversary of the first landings at Gallipoli, we remember the sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand service personnel during World War I,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

Held every April 25, the event recalls the 1915 World War One battle between defending Ottoman forces and an assault by British and French forces and troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) trying to capture the Gallipoli peninsula, now part of Turkey. 

“The heroic actions of courageous Australian and New Zealand men and women, side by side with Americans in the trenches of the Western Front and across the harshest deserts of the Middle East, helped build a world safe for freedom and democracy,” Pompeo said.

Security is particularly tight for this year’s events after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Gallipoli last month and suggested a repeat of the battle. He seized on the New Zealand mosque attacks, which had happened a few days prior, to portray Turkey as under threat.

“Your grandfathers came and saw that we're here. Then some of them walked back, while others left in coffins,” Erdoğan said. “If you come with the same intention, we'll be waiting for you.”

Tensions between Turkey and the Australasian nations eased in the days after, and some 1,500 New Zealanders and Australians are expected to attend Thursday’s events. Attendees will go through airport-style X-ray screenings, with bags searched and all liquids and gels confiscated, before being allowed onto the commemorative sites.

On Wednesday, Turkish authorities arrested a suspected Islamic State member they believe was planning to attack ANZAC Day events. The suspect, a Syrian national, was detained in the northwestern province of Tekirdağ, close to the Gallipoli peninsula, Reuters quoted a Tekirdağ police spokesman as saying.

Amid growing tensions between Ankara and Washington, the U.S. Secretary of State also highlighted continued cooperation between the three countries.

“The bonds between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States remain strong and steadfast,” said Pompeo. “Each day we collaborate to preserve the freedom and security of the Indo-Pacific region and around the globe.”