With high-level diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands already frozen, Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the Dutch for failing to prevent the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims when Bosnian Serb forces overran the town in 1995.
In a reference to Dutch United Nations peacekeepers who were on the ground and failed to prevent the mass killing, Erdogan said Tuesday: “We know the Dutch and the people in Holland from the massacre of Srebrenica. We know them, how they massacred people in Srebrenica full well. We don’t need anyone to give us a lesson on civilization.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded to the remarks, accusing Erdogan of “a disgusting falsification of history.”
In an interview with Dutch broadcaster RTL, Rutte said: “[Erdogan] continues to push the limits. This is of unbelievably low quality and style. We are not going to reduce ourselves to this level. This is very unacceptable and extremely irritating.”
Adding fuel to the fire
The Turkish president’s incendiary comments — made during a speech in Ankara — came amid an escalating row sparked by Turkish officials being blocked from addressing political rallies in the Netherlands.
Over the weekend, the Netherlands refused to allow Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to visit Rotterdam for a political rally.
Shortly after Cavusoglu was refused entry, the Dutch stopped Turkey’s Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. She was later escorted out of the country.
Violent clashes erupted after the action against the two ministers who had hoped to drum up support for an April 16 referendum to give greater powers to Erdogan.
The Netherlands lost more than 200,000 of its citizens when it was occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II and Rutte has demanded an apology.
On Monday, Turkey announced that it would not allow the Dutch ambassador to Ankara to return to Turkey and suspended high-level diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The deepening diplomatic row has also prompted threats from Turkey to pull out of the EU-Migrant deal, designed to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.
Tension ahead of votes
The growing tensions come ahead of the Dutch general election on Wednesday; far-right candidate Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam, anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV) is expected to make a strong showing.
Wilders has sought to gain political advantage from the discord between the Netherlands and Turkey. Meanwhile, it has also been suggested that Erdogan is seeking to show his strength as a leader on the world stage.
His Srebrenica comments — given during speech on healthcare — drew loud applause from the audience.
Erdogan also implored Dutch voters of immigrant backgrounds not to cast their ballots for Wilders, who he described as an “extreme racist” or Prime Minister Rutte in Wednesday’s election.