Tuesday 24 October 2017

Dutch are Nazi remnants, says Erdogan in row over cancelled rally

Supporters of Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan stage a protest outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul (AP)
Supporters of Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan stage a protest outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul (AP)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte talks to well-wishers during a campaign stop in Breda, Netherlands (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Demonstrators wave Turkish flags outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the Dutch as "Nazi remnants and fascists" as a diplomatic row escalated over a cancelled rally.

The Dutch government sparked a war of words after it withdrew landing permission for the Turkish foreign minister's aircraft.

The move drew a furious reaction from the Turkish president, fuelling a diplomatic dispute between the two Nato allies over campaigning for a Turkish referendum on constitutional reform.

The Dutch government said it had withdrawn the permission because of "risks to public order and security" caused by the proposed visit of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Rotterdam.

Mr Erdogan promised retaliation against Dutch diplomatic flights.

"You can stop our foreign minister's plane all you want, let's see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on," Erdogan said at a rally in Istanbul.

He said the Dutch "do not know politics or international diplomacy", adding "these Nazi remnants, they are fascists"

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called Mr Erdogan's "fascists" comment "a crazy remark".

He said: "I understand they are angry but this is of course way out of line."

Mr Rutte said it was not right "for Turkish ministers to campaign in the Netherlands among Dutch people - with potentially a Turkish passport, yes - but first of all Dutch people."

Despite the angry exchange, Mr Rutte said it was important to keep good relations with Turkey.

"We will do everything to keep the relations with Turkey as good as possible, as strong as possible," he said.

But Mr Cavusoglu also repeated the government's charges that bans on rallies are "fascist practices".

He said the German and Dutch bans on campaigns for a "yes" vote in the April 16 referendum on constitutional changes means that Europe is "taking a side for a 'no' vote". The constitutional changes would give the president more powers.

The Dutch government said it had been searching with Turkish authorities for an "acceptable solution" to Mr Cavusoglu's plan to campaign in the Netherlands, but "before these talks were completed, Turkish authorities publicly threatened sanctions. That makes the search for a reasonable solution impossible".

The spat between the countries later sparked protests in Rotterdam and Istanbul.

About 100 pro-Turkish demonstrators gathered outside the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam at dusk with flags in a peaceful protest.

Dozens also marched in Istanbul and laid a black wreath in front of the Dutch Consulate amid a heavy police presence.

A Turkish foreign ministry official said access to and from the Dutch Embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul has been closed off for security reasons.

The official said entries and exits were closed at the two locations. Similar precautions were taken at the Dutch charge d'affaires' house and the ambassador's residence.

The Turkish foreign ministry also said it does not want to see the Dutch ambassador, who is out of the country, to return to his post for some time because of the divisive dispute which comes just days before the Netherlands goes to the polls in a March 15 election for the lower house of Parliament.

The campaign has been dominated by issues of identity, with anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders set to make strong gains.

AP

Press Association

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