Turkey War of Words With Dutch Worsens With New Accusations

  • Dutch flag over Istanbul embassy briefly removed, AFP reports
  • Turkey foreign minister says Dutch apology wouldn’t suffice

Dutch Election Impact Seen on Turkey's Call for Sanctions

A diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands worsened on Sunday as foreign ministers from both countries exchanged more denunciations.

Protests broke out in Rotterdam on Saturday night after Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Kaya was denied entry into her consulate and escorted to the border with Germany. The Dutch say the minister put public order at risk by choosing to sneak into the country after talks on possible campaigning abroad by Turkish officials were abandoned.

“An apology won’t suffice,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in televised comments from France. “There are steps we’ll take, we’re planning them.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who spoke at about the same time, said the government was forced to draw a “red-line” and had nothing to apologize for.

The rhetoric comes amid hard-fought electoral contests in both countries. The Dutch go the polls on March 15 with Prime Minister Mark Rutte fighting off a challenge from anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, plans to hold a referendum in April to transform the Turkish presidency into the nation’s top executive post.

Cavusoglu repeated a slur first made by Erdogan that “even in Nazi times we didn’t see anything like this.”

Flag Flap

A protester on Sunday took down the Dutch flag flying over the consulate in Istanbul and replaced it with a Turkish flag, Agence France-Presse said, citing its reporter at the scene. A Turkish official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disputed the claim, saying the flag was replaced by someone from inside the consulate. Footage of the incident showed a man on the roof shouting "Allahu Akbar" as the flag was replaced. His identity was unclear.

Earlier on Sunday, Rutte said he wasn’t about to be blackmailed by Turkish officials. “It makes me extremely uncomfortable that a Turkish minister would hold a campaign speech here on a referendum,” Rutte said in a Wakker Nederland television interview.

“The Turkish authorities should avoid exaggerations and provocations,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement. A separate rally in the northern city of Metz was allowed to go forward because there was no risk to public order and people have a right to assembly.

Nazi Slurs

Erdogan has clashed repeatedly with his European counterparts this month as he seeks backing from Turkish voters across the 28-nation bloc for his referendum. The last general election in 2015 showed there were about 3 million Turkish voters abroad, though fewer than half of them voted.

"When these incidents started, I said they were all fascist oppression, I said Nazism is rising again," Erdogan said in a speech on Sunday in which he repeatedly vowed that Holland would "pay the price" for its actions. "Nazism is alive in the West."

Turkish ministers have tried to attend events in Europe only for them to be refused entry or for the events to be canceled. When two German municipalities cited safety concerns for blocking a rally, Erdogan responded that the rulings were “not different from Nazi practices.”

Cemil Ertem, a chief adviser to Erdogan, said in an interview on Sunday that Turkey was safe for business as the EU slides into “fascism.”

Rutte’s Liberals and Wilders’s anti-Islam, anti-EU Freedom Party are nearly tied in the polls. Wilders on Twitter last night told Kaya to “go away and never come back.”

Erdogan and the EU forged a deal last March to stem the flow of refugees entering Greece via the Aegean Sea, with Turkey agreeing to take back people turned away. The uneasy accord helped ease the trade bloc’s refugee crisis.

— With assistance by Corina Ruhe

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