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Turkey orders sanctions against Netherlands over treatment of ministers

Turkey has announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands over its refusal to allow two Turkish ministers to campaign there.

The sanctions include halting high-level political discussions between the two countries and closing Turkish air space to Dutch diplomats.

Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said the sanctions would apply until the Netherlands takes steps "to redress" the actions Ankara sees as a grave insult.

"There is a crisis and a very deep one. We didn't create this crisis or bring it to this stage," he said. "Those who did have to take steps to redress the situation."

Other sanctions bar the Dutch ambassador entry back into Turkey and advise parliament to withdraw from a Dutch-Turkish friendship group

The announcement came hours after Turkey's foreign ministry formally protested over the treatment of a minister who was prevented from entering a consulate in the Netherlands and escorted out of the country after trying to attend a political rally.

The ministry also objected to what it called a "disproportionate" use of force against demonstrators at a protest afterwards. Separately, Turkey's foreign minister was denied permission to land to address the same rally in Rotterdam.

The dispute is over the Netherlands' refusal to allow Turkish officials to campaign there to drum up support among Turks who are eligible to vote in an April 16 referendum that would greatly expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

About 400,000 people with ties to Turkey live in the Netherlands, although it is not clear how many are eligible to vote.

Mr Erdogan said the two cabinet ministers - foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and family affairs minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, would ask the European human rights court to weigh in on their treatment.

He vowed to retaliate against the Netherlands after claiming "Nazism is alive in the West".

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the Netherlands in the diplomatic fight, as Nato's chief called for alliance members to respect each other and the European Union urged Turkey to calm down.

Turkey had a similar dispute with Germany last week, but the fight with the Netherlands comes as the Dutch prepare for an election on Wednesday pitting prime minister Mark Rutte's right-wing PVV Party against far-right, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders' party.

Mrs Merkel pledged her "full support and solidarity" to the Dutch, saying the Nazi gibes were "completely unacceptable".

Mr Erdogan responded angrily. "Shame on you!" he exclaimed during an interview with A Haber television.

He renewed accusations that Germany supported "terrorists" battling Turkey and that it backed the "no" campaign in the Turkish referendum, arguing that Berlin did not want to see a strong Turkey.

"Some of the European Union countries - let's not put all of them in the same sack - unfortunately cannot stomach Turkey's rise," he said. "Sadly, Germany tops the list. Germany supports terror in a cruel way."

He advised Turks living in Europe not to vote for parties that he described as "enemies of Turkey".

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg urged all members of the alliance "to show mutual respect, to be calm and have a measured approach".

The European Union called on Turkey to "refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation". Spokesman Margaritis Schinas added that it was essential to avoid further escalation and find ways to calm the situation.

In a television interview, Mr Erdogan repeated slurs against the Netherlands, saying: "Their Vienna Convention is their fascism. Their Nazism. We can say neo-Nazism." He was referring to a 1961 international treaty on diplomatic relations.

Turkey is a candidate to join the European Union, although the membership negotiations have made little progress over the past decade. The country has become a vital partner in a deal with the EU to curb the passage of migrants and refugees from Turkey into Europe.

The Dutch have issued a travel advisory to their citizens to "be alert and avoid gatherings and busy places throughout Turkey".


PA Media