ReutersANKARA/ROTTERDAM (Reuters) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday the Netherlands was acting like a “banana republic” and should face sanctions for barring Turkish ministers from speaking in Rotterdam, fueling a row over Ankara’s political campaigning abroad.
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.
In a speech in France, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described the Netherlands as 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 expatriate 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 Reuters witness said. 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 visits were undesirable and it would not cooperate in their campaigning.
“I call on all international organisations in Europe and elsewhere to impose sanctions on the Netherlands,” Erdogan said, after his prime minister earlier said Turkey would retaliate in the “harshest ways,” without specifying how.
“Has Europe said anything? No. Why? Because they don’t bite each other. The Netherlands are acting like a banana republic,” Erdogan said in a speech in Kocaeli Province, near Istanbul.
A day earlier, Erdogan described the Netherlands as “Nazi remnants” and returned to the theme on Sunday by saying, “Nazism is still widespread in the West” in what Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said were inflammatory remarks.
“We ended up in a totally unprecedented situation in which a NATO ally ... with whom we have historic ties, strong trade relations, is acting in a totally unacceptable, irresponsible manner,” Rutter told reporters.
Rather than the Netherlands apologizing for refusing the Turkish ministers entry, Turkey’s president should apologize for comparing the Netherlands to fascists and Nazis, he said.
The row risked spreading on Sunday as Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen proposed postponing a planned visit by Turkish Prime Minister Binali 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.
German minister hints at limits
BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany’s interior minister said on Sunday there were “clear limits” if Turkish ministers want to campaign among immigrants in Germany, striking a tougher tone than the previous line from Berlin as a row between Ankara and EU states escalates.
Thomas de Maiziere told broadcaster ARD he did not support ministers campaigning in Germany.
“You have to carefully consider whether one imposes a ban on entry. But there are limits — clear limits — for example the criminal code: we have provisions in our criminal code,” de Maiziere told broadcaster ARD.