Dutch ambassador blocked from returning to Turkey after Erdogan calls Dutch authorities Nazis
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t done fighting with the Netherlands after Dutch authorities blocked Turkish ministers from campaigning in Rotterdam over the weekend. On Tuesday, Erdogan’s government spokesman announced that Turkey would not allow Dutch diplomats to land in the country. The Dutch ambassador is currently out of the country, meaning this new ruling effectively bars his return.
Tuesday’s announcement is just the latest move in a series of diplomatic bluster from Turkey. After the decision not to allow two Turkish ministers to speak at a Rotterdam rally Saturday, Erdogan called the Dutch “Nazi remnants, fascists” on Sunday. He continued his verbal assault Monday, accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “mercilessly supporting terrorism,” after she condemned his Nazi comparison, and he vowed to take his dispute to the European Court of Human Rights.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has previously said that he is trying to “de-escalate” the situation, but on Tuesday he replied to new comments from Erdogan, telling reporters: “The president of Turkey today is talking about the Netherlands in an increasingly hysterical way. He has now made an historical unwise remark about Srebrenica, which is really off the mark, it is really unacceptable.”
Relations with the Dutch-Turkish community, which is more than 400,000 strong, have been testy since the July 15 coup in Turkey. Protests against that crisis spilled into Dutch city streets, eliciting a controversial response from Prime Minister Rutte, that Turkish people who refused to integrate should “fuck off” back to their own country.
Echoes of such unrest still linger in the Netherlands, and Dutch authorities were quick to claim that the proposed rally by Turkish ministers could create a threat to public order.
Dutch officials denied landing rights to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday afternoon. The Turks then sent minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who was campaigning in Germany, across the border by car. But when she arrived at the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, Dutch authorities prevented her from exiting her vehicle.
In response, roughly 500 Turkish-Dutch citizens protested the decision outside the Turkish consulate on Saturday night. Clashes broke out with military police, who used water cannons and dogs to disperse the crowd.
Turkey called for an apology Monday for how its citizens had been treated by the Netherlands Dutch authorities and demanded a judicial inquiry into alleged police brutality. Such demands were swiftly dismissed by Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders.
Erdogan has also demanded an apology from the Netherlands, but that’s very unlikely to happen. “This is a man who yesterday called us fascists and a country of Nazis. I will de-escalate but I will not apologize. That would be crazy,” Rutte said during a TV appearance Sunday.
The prime minister said he’s heartened by the outpouring of support from European leaders and the European Commission. All political parties in the Netherlands have expressed support for the Dutch government’s stance.
Not everybody thinks Rutte acted wisely, however. One newspaper commentator said that if not for the diplomatic bickering, the speech by the Turkish foreign minister would’ve seen a small attendance — a Facebook event for the campaign showed only 50 people confirmed to attend the event.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic spat has transformed into a late but key issue in Wednesday’s general election. Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party (PVV) took to Twitter on Monday to further stoke outrage, saying the Turkish ambassador should be expelled. During the weekend he tweeted those protesting should also get out of the country.
The latest poll puts Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal VVD party almost neck and neck with Wilders’ PVV, which seems to indicate that the diplomatic name-calling is not the game changer pundits were hoping for.
With 28 parties competing for 150 seats, the Dutch electoral field is as crowded as it is divided. One of the few parties to move at all during the last week was the Christian Democrats (CDA). Its leader, Sybrand Buma, seized on the diplomatic incident to call for the ending of the 1964 EU Association Agreement with Turkey, in order to be able to revoke dual nationality of Dutch Turks.
On Monday night, Rutte and Wilders went head to head for the first time in the campaign, Wilders having cancelled all previous debate appearances. Wilders repeated his demand that the Turkish ambassador be expelled, and infused his hard-right nationalistic politics into the issue, saying that the row showed that Dutch-Turks have a problem with integration. “All those people that were standing on the square with Turkish flags and showing that they are not Dutch, but Turkish.”
Tomorrow’s election will reveal just how many Dutch voters connect with Wilders’ divisive rhetoric.
Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS