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Dutch PM says he won't apologise to Turkey over escalating diplomatic row

A diplomatic dispute between the two countries continues to worsen.

Demonstrators battle with Dutch riot police after riots broke out near the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Demonstrators battle with Dutch riot police after riots broke out near the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Image: Peter Dejong

Updated at 6.35pm

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER Mark Rutte ruled out apologising for banning Turkish ministers from joining pro-Ankara rallies in the Netherlands, but said he hoped a diplomatic row could be defused.

“There’s absolutely no way excuses can be made, they should make excuses for what they’ve done yesterday,” Rutte told reporters as he campaigned for Wednesday’s general election.

The Dutch have been particularly angered after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan likened them to Nazis for refusing to allow his ministers to attend a pro-government meeting in Rotterdam to drum up support for an April referendum on expanding his powers.

“This country, as the mayor of Rotterdam pointed out yesterday, was bombed during the Second World War by the Nazis. It’s totally unacceptable to talk in this way,” Rutte said in The Hague.

The decision by Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya to defy repeated Dutch warnings not to come to The Netherlands had led to “havoc,” he said.

He urged Dutch citizens to “keep your cool. We have a fantastic society… and most Dutch people with a Turkish background are well-integrated.”

Tensions remained high, with Erdogan warning that the Netherlands would “pay a price” for its actions.

Russia Turkey Erdogan called the Dutch efforts to block rallies the vestiges of Nazis. Source: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool

But Rutte said: “In the interest of our relations within the EU, with Turkey, it is now crucial to try and de-escalate events, not to add to this.

‘Undesirable visit’

“Of course, if Turkey continues to talk in an inflammatory way about the Netherlands, we have to consider next steps.”

Rutte stood by his government’s decision to expel Kaya, saying she had been an “undesirable” visitor.

And in an interview with the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, he hit out at Ankara for treating Dutch people with Turkish roots as Turkish citizens.

“These are Dutch citizens,” Rutte insisted, adding that like Turkey ”The Netherlands is a proud country”.

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 an April 16 referendum on boosting the powers of the president.

Dutch police moved in early Sunday to break up protests, which erupted in Rotterdam over the incident, using water cannon, dogs and mounted horseback charges. Dutch media said that 12 people had been arrested and one officer was hurt.

Turkey’s foreign minister was refused permission to land in the country today. They were instead escorted to the German border.

The ministers were attempting to rally support among The Netherlands’ Turkish population for a referendum which will be held in Turkey next month seeking to enhance Erdogan’s powers.

Protests

The latest comments follow  protests late last night outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

Dutch police used water cannon and horses to break up the protests.

After several hours of calm demonstrations, police moved in to disperse over 1,000 people gathered close to the consulate, charging the crowd on horseback and using dogs to regain control.

Protesters hit back, throwing rocks at riot police, while hundreds of cars jammed the streets blaring their horns and revving their engines.

Dispute

The Netherlands, which holds general elections on Wednesday, had repeatedly said foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was not welcome to campaign for Turkey’s April referendum in the country and refused his plane permission to land.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily yesterday accusing the Dutch – who were once under Nazi occupation – of being “the vestiges of Nazis”.

However, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte today defended the expulsion of the minister, saying her presence in The Netherlands had been “irresponsible”

“The search for a reasonable solution proved impossible, and the verbal attacks that followed today from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable,” the government said in a statement.

“In this context Minster Kaya’s visit was irresponsible. Through contacts with the Turkish authorities, the message was repeatedly conveyed that Minister Kaya is not welcome in the Netherlands… nevertheless she decided to travel.”

The Dutch decision to ban Cavusoglu from visiting came after Germany and other European nations also blocked similar campaign events.

Minister banned 

But later, Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya appeared at the scene after reportedly travelling by car overland from Germany.

She was stopped just outside the consulate by Dutch police, and after several hours of negotiations escorted back to the German border.

German Development Minister Mueller in Turkey File photo of Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policies Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya (left). Source: Ann Beatrice Clasmann/DPA/PA Images

Kaya was “on the way from Rotterdam to Germany”, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters, adding:

She has been expelled back to the country she came from.

The Dutch government criticised Kaya as “irresponsible” for attempting to visit after being told she was not welcome and said it told Turkey it could not compromise on public order and security.

“The search for a reasonable solution proved impossible, and the verbal attacks that followed today from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable,” it said in a statement.

In this context Minster Kaya’s visit was irresponsible. Through contacts with the Turkish authorities, the message was repeatedly conveyed that Minister Kaya is not welcome in the Netherlands… nevertheless she decided to travel.

Kaya complained of her treatment, and could be seen in images on Dutch NOS television appearing to argue with Dutch police about the situation.

“We’ve been here for about four hours. We were not even offered water,” she told the NTV television channel.

“I was told to leave the country and return to Germany as soon as possible,” she added.

Cavusoglu meanwhile flew to France where he is expected to address a rally later today in the eastern city of Metz. A French official said the visit had been cleared by the foreign ministry in Paris.

As the row raged, Turkish foreign ministry sources said the Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul had both been sealed off for “security reasons”.

Netherlands Turkey Demonstrators wave turkish flags outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. Source: Ann Beatrice Clasmann/DPA/PA Images

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Erdogan’s criticism was “crazy”.

“I understand that they are angry but this is way out of line,” he said.

I really think we made the right decision here.

“Don’t return”

Cavusoglu, speaking in Istanbul, said the ban was “unacceptable”.

“Why are you taking sides in the referendum?” he said, adding: “Is the foreign minister of Turkey a terrorist?”

The Turkish foreign ministry said the Dutch charge d’affaires in Ankara was summoned and told Turkey did not want the Dutch ambassador – currently on holiday – to return “for a while”.

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 16 April referendum on creating an executive presidency.

Netherlands Turkey A police dog bites a demonstrator after riots broke out during a pro Erdogan demonstration at the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. Source: Peter Dejong/AP

The Turkish government argues the changes would ensure stability and create more efficient governance, but opponents say it would lead to one-man rule and further inflame tensions in its diverse society.

The latest row came after NATO allies Turkey and Germany sparred over the cancellation of a series of referendum campaign events there.

Germany is home to 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey – the fourth-largest electoral base after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Although Berlin insisted the cancellations by local authorities were for logistical reasons, Turkish officials repeatedly hit back.

© – AFP 2017

Read: “They are the vestiges of the Nazis”: Turkey president slams Dutch over foreign minister ban

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