Turkey said on Saturday it doesn’t want the Netherlands ambassador to return “for some time” as relations quickly deteriorated between the NATO allies after the Dutch government barred Turkey’s foreign minister from flying to the country.
In response to the Netherlands’ withdrawing landing permission, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Dutch government of acting like “fascists” and “Nazi remnants”.
TURKISH AUTHORITIES BLOCKED THE DUTCH EMBASSY
Turkish authorities blocked the Dutch embassy and consulate as the row between the two countries over Turkey’s political campaigning in Europe intensified. Turkey also closed off the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d’affaires, and consul general.
A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told Al Jazeera the moves were made “for security reasons”.
“We do not want the Dutch ambassador, currently on leave, to return to his post for some time. It has been explained to our counterparts that this grave decision taken against Turkey and the Dutch-Turkish community will cause serious problems diplomatically, politically, economically and in other areas,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Erdogan calls Dutch ‘Nazi remnants’ as rally row rages
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was blocked by Dutch police from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam after she drove into the country, Netherlands, NOS News reported.
NOS broadcast footage of Kaya stepping out of a car in front of the consulate and being stopped by police when she tried to enter. She was not arrested.
“We ask European countries, especially the Netherlands, to immediately return to democratic values they say they defend – the freedom of expression, action and assembly. They suspended all of these,” Kaya told Turkish state media by telephone.
THE ROW FIRST ERUPTED AFTER DUTCH OFFICIALS ON FRIDAY
The row first erupted after Dutch officials on Friday said they would not welcome a visit by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu if he was to address a political rally in Rotterdam on Saturday.
There are some 300,000 people of Turkish origin in the Netherlands, and the rally was aimed at generating support among expats for an April 16 referendum over whether to give Turkey’s president greater powers.
It is illegal in the Netherlands to hold rallies involving another country’s politics, however.
On Saturday, the Dutch government said it had withdrawn landing permission for Cavusoglu’s plane because of “risks to public order and security”.
In response, Turkey summoned the Dutch envoy to Ankara in protest over the ban, while 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 on Saturday.
“They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists,” Erdogan said, days after he angrily compared moves to block rallies in Germany to “Nazi practices”.
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte called Erdogan’s remark comparing the Dutch to the Nazis “crazy”.
“I understand they’re angry, but this of course was way out of line,” he said.
Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insists on Netherlands visit
The diplomatic dispute between the two NATO allies 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.
Wilders, speaking to Al Jazeera at a rally at the Dutch city of Heerlen on Saturday, said the moves by Erdogan and his ministers to campaign in foreign countries were “totally unacceptable”.
“It is uncommon and unwanted that his minister would go and campaign in Holland for a referendum to change the constitution there to make him [Erdogan] more of a dictator. He should not be allowed here at all,” said Wilders.
“And after him calling Dutch people Nazis and things like that, the Turkish ambassador should be extradited from the Netherlands immediately and retract our ambassador from Ankara today.”
Erdogan also denounced Germany after Turkish leaders were prevented from rallying expats in several German cities in support of the referendum.
Many in Europe worry that Erdogan is capitalising on fears following a failed coup attempt in July to push through a more authoritarian system with few checks on his power.
Journalist and author Andrew Finkel, who has covered Turkey extensively, told Al Jazeera the spats with Europe play well to the electorate back home.
“As far as the Turkish government is concerned, they couldn’t be happier than they are today. It’s clearly an attempt to escalate the conflict,” said Finkel.
The verbal sparring could have longer-term repercussions, however.
“It’s a case of clear short-termism. They’re trying to play this national card – much in the way that Geert Wilders is playing the nationalist card. But of course what happens the day after that … Nobody is really thinking about that, because Europe is very important to Turkey.”