Turkey vows retaliation after Dutch bars ministers

952788ANKARA/ROTTERDAM: 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. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Netherlands was the “capital of fascism” as it joined other European countries in stopping Turkish politicians holding rallies due to fears that tensions in Turkey might spill over into their communities.

The Dutch government barred Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam on Saturday and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her out of the country to Germany. Dutch police used dogs and water cannon 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 witness said.

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Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya speaks to media after arriving at the Ataturk International Airport on Sunday in Istanbul. — AFP

Mounted police officers charged the crowd. The Dutch government — set to lose about half its seats in elections this week, according to polls, as the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders makes strong gains — said the ministers’ visits were undesirable and it would not cooperate in their 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 for 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”.

The row risked spreading on Sunday as Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen proposed postponing a planned visit by Yildirim this month due to the dispute. The French foreign ministry urged calm and said there had been no reason to prohibit a meeting in France between Cavusoglu and a local Turkish association. 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. The diplomatic row comes in the run-up to next week’s Dutch election in which the mainstream parties are under strong pressure from Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV). — Reuters