12 Mar 2017

Turkish president calls Dutch 'Nazi remnants'

10:01 am on 12 March 2017

Turkish authorities have sealed off the Dutch embassy and consulate as a row between the two countries over Turkish campaigning in Europe escalates.

Turkish anti-riot police officers stand guard in front of the Netherlands consulate in Ankara.

Turkish anti-riot police officers stand guard in front of the Netherlands consulate in Ankara. Photo: AFP

Tensions between the NATO partners have been growing over the weekend after the Dutch government barred Turkey's foreign minister from flying to Rotterdam.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was due to speak in the Dutch city of Rotterdam on Saturday in support of a referendum in Turkey next month to give Mr Erdogan greater powers.

At least 300,000 Austrian residents are estimated to be of Turkish origin and Turkish ministers are said to be planning to campaign in several European Union countries before the vote.

But the rally was banned for security reasons, and the minister's plane was then refused permission to land.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the Dutch as "Nazi remnants and fascists".

Hours later, Turkish officials closed off the embassy and consulate in Ankara, along with the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d'affaires and consul general.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it did not want the Dutch ambassador - who is currently on leave - to return to Turkey "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 ministry said in a statement.

Dutch police also stopped the convoy of Turkey's family minister at the Netherlands border on Saturday, after she attempted to travel there by land, CNN Turk reported.

Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was in Germany for separate meetings when she decided to head to the Netherlands by land, but was told by border officials to return to Germany, the broadcaster said.

However, Dutch TV broadcast footage of the minister in Rotterdam, being prevented by police from entering the Turkish consulate

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Mr Erdogan's Nazi remark was "way out of line".

"It's a crazy remark, of course," Mr Rutte said.

'Reasonable solution impossible'

President Erdogan reacted to the ban on his foreign minister by threatening to block Dutch flights.

He said: "Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on, let's see how your flights will land in Turkey."

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned Turkey would impose heavy sanctions if his visit were blocked.

Mr Rutte warned in a statement that the Turkish threat of sanctions made "the search for a reasonable solution impossible".

Mr Rutte also stressed that Dutch officials had earlier discussed whether the planned rally with Mr Cavusoglu could be private and "smaller-scale" and held in a Turkish consulate or embassy.

The Netherlands "regrets the course of events, and remains committed to dialogue with Turkey," the statement added.

There was also uncertainty about whether an event he was due to attend in Zurich, Switzerland, on Sunday would go ahead after one venue refused to hold it.

Another event in Zurich scheduled for Friday was cancelled, as were rallies in the Austrian towns of Hoerbranz, Linz and Herzogenburg.

Relations between Turkey and European countries have deteriorated since last July's attempted coup in Turkey. Germany has been critical of the mass arrests and purges that followed - with nearly 100,000 civil servants removed from their posts.

Many European nations have expressed deep disquiet about Turkey's response to the coup attempt and its perceived slide towards authoritarianism under President Erdogan.

Turkey is a key partner in an arrangement attempting to limit the movement of migrants into the EU, but has threatened to "open the gates" if the EU reneges on commitments to provide aid, visa-free travel for its nationals and accelerated membership talks.

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