Dutch, Turkey Escalate Diplomatic Tit-for-Tat Over Rally Dispute

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Demonstrators gather to welcome the Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who was prevented from entering the Turkish consulate in the Netherlands March 11. Yves Herman/Reuters

The Netherlands barred Turkey's foreign minister from landing in Rotterdam on Saturday in a row over Ankara's political campaigning among Turkish emigres, leading President Tayyip Erdogan to brand its fellow NATO member a "Nazi remnant." The dispute escalated in the evening as Turkey's family minister was prevented by police from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. Hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags gathered outside, demanding to see the minister.

Two Dutch broadcasters said the minister, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, was detained by Dutch authorities to prevent her from addressing the crowd. RTL said Kaya was declared an "undesirable alien" and would be escorted to Germany.

The decision to detain the minister came as roughly 2,000 pro-Erdogan protesters were gathered outside the consulate in Rotterdam. The news of plans to return her to Germany drew boos and whistling through the crowd as police in riot gear and on horseback warned that they would use force to disperse protesters.

Turkey's foreign ministry said it did not want the Dutch ambassador to Ankara to return from leave "for some time." Turkish authorities sealed off the Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul in apparent retaliation and hundreds gathered there for protests at the Dutch action.

President Erdogan is looking to the large number of emigre Turks living in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, to help clinch victory next month in a referendum that would give the presidency sweeping new powers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will do everything possible to prevent Turkish political tensions spilling onto German soil and four rallies in Austria and one in Switzerland have been canceled due to the growing dispute.

Erdogan has cited domestic threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants and a July coup bid as cause to vote "yes" to his new powers. But he has also drawn on the emotionally charged row with Europe to portray Turkey as betrayed by allies while facing wars on its southern borders.

The Dutch government had banned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from attending a rally on Saturday in Rotterdam but he said he would fly there anyway, saying Europe must be rid of its "boss-like attitude."

Cavusoglu, who was barred from a similar meeting in Hamburg last week but spoke instead from the Turkish consulate, accused the Dutch of treating the many Turkish citizens in the country like hostages, cutting them off from Ankara.

"If my going will increase tensions, let it be ... I am a foreign minister and I can go wherever I want," he added hours before his planned flight to Rotterdam was banned.

Sanctions Threat

Cavusoglu threatened harsh economic and political sanctions if the Dutch refused him entry, and those threats proved decisive for the Netherlands government.

It cited public order and security concerns in withdrawing landing rights for Cavusoglu's flight and said the threat of sanctions made the search for a reasonable solution impossible.

"This decision is a scandal and unacceptable in every way. It does not abide by diplomatic practices," Cavusoglu told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday evening.

Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders, polling second ahead of Wednesday's elections, said in a tweet on Saturday: "To all Turks in the Netherlands who agree with Erdogan: Go to Turkey and NEVER come back!!"

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "This morning on TV (the Turkish minister) made clear he was threatening the Netherlands with sanctions and we can never negotiate with the Turks under such threats. So we decided ... in a conference call it was better for him not to come."

'Nazi Remnants'

Addressing a rally of supporters, Erdogan retaliated against the decision to prevent the Turkish foreign minister from visiting Rotterdam.

"Listen Netherlands, you'll jump once, you'll jump twice, but my people will thwart your game," he said. "You can cancel our foreign minister's flight as much as you want, but let's see how your flights will come to Turkey now."

"They don't know diplomacy or politics. They are Nazi remnants. They are fascists," he said.

Rutte called Erdogan's reference to Nazis and Fascists "a crazy remark." He added: "I understand they're angry but this is of course way out of line."

Dutch, Turkey Escalate Diplomatic Tit-for-Tat Over Rally Dispute | World