Turkey lashed out at Netherlands on Saturday after the Dutch government decided to deny landing rights for foreign minister Mevsut Cavusoglu. Immediate was the reaction of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who spoke of “Nazis and fascists” and wondered “let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey.” Several European countries cancelled Turkish Referendum rallies in their soil.
Speaking at a referendum rally in Istanbul just hours after the Hague denied landing permission to Cavusoglu, Erdogan said
“They are the vestiges of the Nazis, they are fascists. Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey.”
Erdogan accused the Netherlands of working against the “Yes” campaign and said also:
“Pressure however much you like. Abet terrorists in your country however much you like. It will backlash, and there’s no doubt that we’ll start retaliating after April 16… We are patient. Whoever is patient will reach victory.”
The Turkish foreign ministry swiftly announced it had summoned the Dutch deputy ambassador in protest over the ban. The Dutch government said in a statement that its decision to bar Cavusoglu from visiting followed a Turkish threat of sanctions.
“For that reason the Netherlands has let it be known it will withdraw permission to land” for the minister’s plane, it said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement that the Turkish threat of sanctions made “the search for a reasonable solution impossible”.
The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and Ankara is keen to harness votes of the diaspora in Europe ahead of the April 16 referendum.
Cavusoglu insisted on planning a rally in support of Erdogan referendum despite the facts that the Dutch government had raised objections ahead of the elections next week.
Moves to block the events came amid concern over Erdogan’s government campaigning in European towns and cities, particularly after a sweeping crackdown following last year’s failed coup raised human rights concerns.
Turkey has hit back hard at the cancellations, with Erdogan angrily comparing moves by local authorities in Germany to stop the rallies to “Nazi practices.”
“I am going to Rotterdam today (Saturday),” Cavusoglu told CNN-Turk television in an interview.
“We will impose heavy sanctions on the Netherlands” if the visit is blocked, he added.
Later, on the day the Turkish foreign minister said that sanction against the Netherlands will be imposed after the Erdogan Referendum in April.
Cavusoglu’s statement came after Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders on Thursday said his country would “in no way” facilitate the planned visit. The minister was pencilled in to address a planned rally in the port city of Rotterdam on Saturday.
“We will not participate in a visit by a Turkish government official who wants to conduct a political campaign for a referendum,” Koenders said.
Still, Cavusoglu was determined to go, saying: “If tensions will increase because of my visit, let them be.”
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb on Friday told reporters that the minister would not be allowed to hold a public rally.
“I’m responsible for public order and the Turkish cabinet knows that it will be forbidden,” Aboutaleb said.
Cavusoglu will not be barred from visiting Rotterdam “as a private person … but he will not be allowed to have a public gathering”, he warned.
The latest row came after NATO allies Turkey and Germany sparred over the cancellation of a series of referendum campaign events there.
Erdogan’s ministers are keen to tap into the diaspora in Germany, which includes 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey — the fourth-largest electoral base after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
Although Berlin insisted that the string of cancellations by local authorities were down to logistical reasons, Turkish officials repeatedly hit back, leading to Erdogan’s angry “Nazi” remark.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said such rhetoric was “depressing,” belittled Holocaust victims and was “so out of place as to be unworthy of serious comment.”
Ankara has in turn accused Berlin of harbouring “terrorists” and failing to respond to requests to hand over suspects from the coup as well as Kurdish militants who it believes are members of the outlawed PKK group.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has called for an EU ban on Turkish politicians campaigning for the referendum.
Swiss police on Friday blocked a rally supporting a “yes” vote in the referendum, amid uncertainty over whether the Turkish foreign minister would be allowed to host a similar event planned for Zurich this weekend.
PS It’s time for the EU partners to get to know the real Erdogan and the real Ankara. It is unfair that only Greece is exposed to Turkish threats, claims and names.