'Nazism alive in West... Dutch will pay the price' - Erdogan
In a growing rift with Europe, the Turkish president yesterday declared "Nazism is alive in the West" after a row over a banned rally in the Netherlands escalated into a diplomatic crisis.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan swore to make the "fascist" Dutch government "pay the price" after it denied Turkey's foreign minister permission to fly in to attend a meeting aimed at drumming up "yes" votes for an upcoming referendum. When Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, the country's family and social policies minister, came over from Germany to go instead, she was barred from the Turkish consulate and escorted back to the German border.
"I have said that I had thought that Nazism was over, but that I was wrong.
"Nazism is alive in the West," Mr Erdogan said.
A protest of several hundred people waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam turned violent and was dispersed by police using dogs, water cannon and horses. In Istanbul, a protester climbed the roof of the Dutch consulate and replaced the Netherlands flag with the Turkish one.
Rallies in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden for the Turkish referendum in April, which could grant Mr Erdogan sweeping powers, have also hit stumbling blocks in recent weeks. Denmark yesterday asked the Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim to postpone a planned visit because of the tensions.
Far-right politicians across Europe, including Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders, who hopes to become the Dutch prime minister in elections on Wednesday, have seized on the row.
Mr Wilders has called for several weeks for the Rotterdam rally to be cancelled, and gleefully took credit for the decision.
"We have a fifth column in the Netherlands and it should disappear. If your loyalty lies elsewhere, then bugger off," he said yesterday.
After a similar rally went ahead in the French city of Metz yesterday, Ms Le Pen, leader of Front National, said: "Why should we tolerate on our soil comments that other democracies refuse? No Turkish electoral campaign in France." Francois Fillon, the Conservative candidate, accused President Francois Hollande of breaking "in a flagrant manner with European solidarity" by letting the meeting take place.
Mr Erdogan, bolstered by nationalist rhetoric in his referendum campaign at home, first took up the Nazi comparisons earlier this month after German authorities cancelled a political rally after months of bickering with European governments.
Yesterday, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the row made it difficult to continue working with Turkey, a key Nato ally and partner in tackling the European migrant crisis. Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, called the dispute "regrettable".
But Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told supporters at the rally in Metz an apology was not enough. The Dutch ambassador to Turkey, who is out of the country, has already been told he should not come back "for some time", but Mr Cavusoglu said Ankara had "other steps in mind".
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, dismissed the idea of him apologising as "bizarre". The Dutch head to the polls after months of divisive campaigning - led by Mr Wilders - that has focused on issues of immigration, integration and identity in a nation with a reputation as a bastion of tolerance. Mr Wilders and his PVV party are predicted to either beat or tie with Mr Rutte's incumbent VVD party.
Kees Elenbaas, of think tank Clingendael, said political pressure on Mr Rutte from Mr Wilders had a big part to play in the weekend's events. (© Daily Telegraph, London)