Turkey told the Netherlands on Sunday that it would retaliate in the “harshest ways” after Turkish ministers were barred from speaking in Rotterdam, as a row over Ankara’s political campaigning among Turkish immigrants escalated.
President Tayyip Erdogan said “Nazism is still widespread in the West” after the Netherlands joined other European countries worried about political tensions inside Turkey spilling beyond its borders that have prevented Turkish politicians from holding rallies.
The Dutch government on Saturday first barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate in the port city, before escorting her out of the country to Germany.
Dutch police used dogs and water cannon early on Sunday to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Officers carried out charges on horseback.
The Dutch government, which is set to lose about half its seats in elections this week as the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders makes strong gains, said the ministers’ visits were undesirable and it would not cooperate in their political campaigning in the Netherlands.
“If you can sacrifice Turkish-Dutch relations for an election on Wednesday, you will pay the price,” Erdogan said in a speech at an awards ceremony in Istanbul.
“I thought Nazism was dead, but I was wrong. Nazism is still widespread in the West,” he said. “The West has shown its true face.”
Speaking to reporters before a public appearance in the northeastern French city of Metz, Cavusoglu said Turkey would continue to act against the Netherlands until it apologises.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would do everything to “de-escalate” the confrontation, which he described as the worst the Netherlands had experienced in years.
But he said the idea of apologising was “bizarre”.
“This is a man who yesterday made us out for fascists and a country of Nazis. I’m going to de-escalate, but not by offering apologies. Are you nuts?” he told a morning talk show.
In a statement issued early on Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey would retaliate in the “harshest ways”.
Protesters also gathered outside the Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul, throwing eggs and stones at the buildings.
Wilders: “go away”
Supporting Rutte’s decision to ban the visits, the Dutch government said there was a risk of Turkish political divisions flowing over into its own Turkish minority, which has both pro- and anti-Erdogan camps.
It cited public order and security worries in withdrawing landing rights for Cavusoglu’s flight.
Turkey fired back saying the Dutch ambassador to Ankara should not return from leave “for some time”.
Erdogan is looking to the large number of Turks living in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, to help secure victory next month in a referendum that would give the presidency sweeping new powers.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will do all she can to prevent Turkey’s domestic tensions spreading onto German territory. Austria and Switzerland have also cancelled Turkish rallies due to the escalating dispute.
A senior member of her conservative bloc in parliament, Hans Michelbach, demanded on Sunday that the EU stop aid to Turkey and ruled out any hopes that it would join the EU.
“There is no prospect of entry in the long run. Turkey is getting further and further away from the European Union. Support programs (that it gets as an EU candidate) are therefore a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said in a statement.
“It is time that the EU stops performing like a diplomatic paper tiger towards Ankara. Europe must not be led by the nose round the Turkish election arena.”
The diplomatic row comes in the run-up to the coming week’s Dutch election in which the mainstream parties are under strong pressure from the far-right party of Geert Wilders.
After Kaya, the Turkish family minister, was escorted out of the country, Wilders told her on Twitter “go away and never come back”.
Erdogan’s spokesman responded by saying the Netherlands had bowed to anti-Islam sentiment.
“Shame on the Dutch government for succumbing to anti-Islam racists and fascists, and damaging long-standing Turkey-NL relations,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
In a sign the row could spread further, the owner of a venue in Sweden where a senior official from Turkey’s ruling party had been due to hold a rally on Sunday cancelled the rental contract, Turkey’s private Dogan news agency reported.
The news agency said the owner had not given a reason for their decision.
Cavusoglu also decided against traveling to Zurich, Switzerland, for an event on Sunday after failing to find a suitable venue. Zurich’s security authorities had unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government in Bern to ban Cavusoglu’s appearance.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen proposed on Sunday postponing a planned visit by Turkey’s Prime Minister this month due to the diplomatic row between Turkey and the Netherlands.
“With the current Turkish attacks on Holland the meeting cannot be seen separated from that. I have therefore proposed to my Turkish colleague that the meeting will be postponed,” Rasmussen said in a press release.