Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the Netherlands Sunday it would “pay a price” for refusing to allow Ankara’s foreign minister into the country and expelling another minister Saturday to keep them from holding rallies with Turkish immigrants.
Erdogan accused the Dutch government, a NATO ally, of “nazism and fascism,” saying only a repressive regime would block Ankara’s officials from traveling to the Netherlands.
Both of the Ankara officials were trying to rally Turkish immigrants with Turkish voting rights to support Erdogan’s bid to win a referendum next month to give him sweeping new powers.
The Dutch government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, facing a tough re-election contest on Wednesday against the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders, barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam. It then blocked Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish embassy in the port city before escorting her out of the country to Germany.
An angry Erdogan told a ceremony in Istanbul, “Hey Holland! If you are sacrificing Turkish-Dutch relations for the sake of the elections on Wednesday, you will pay a price.”
Earlier Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement that Turkey would retaliate against Amsterdam in the “harshest ways” and “respond in kind to this unacceptable behavior.”
Ankara barred the Dutch ambassador from returning to Turkey, with Cavusoglu saying, “We have other steps in mind. We’ve already begun planning them. We will certainly take those steps and more.” Turkish officials sealed off the Dutch embassy in Ankara.
Dutch leader Rutte called Erdogan’s Nazi claim “a crazy remark.”
“Turkey is a proud nation; the Netherlands is a proud nation,” Rutte said. “We can never do business under those sorts of threats and blackmail.”
But Rutte said his government “will keep working to de-escalate where we can. If the Turks choose to escalate, we will have to react, but we will do everything we can to de-escalate.”
Police in Rotterdam arrested 12 protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam after Dutch-Turkish demonstrators early Sunday pelted police on horseback with rocks and bottles. Police responded with batons and a water cannon. The clash erupted after protesters learned that Dutch police were escorting Kaya to Germany.
Before clashes broke out, about 2,000 protesters had gathered outside the consulate in Rotterdam, the country’s second largest city, to show their support for Erdogan’s government.
Cavusoglu was barred from landing in the Netherlands because of growing opposition to Turkey’s referendum campaigning throughout the European Union.
After Cavusoglu was turned away, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said Kaya had entered the Netherlands from Germany, even though events at which she intended to speak already had been canceled.
Hours later, after arriving back in Istanbul, where she was welcomed by a flag-waving crowd Sunday, Kaya told reporters, “We were subjected to rude and tough treatment … Treating a female minister this way is very ugly.”
Protesters have taken down the Dutch flag at the Istanbul consulate and replaced it with a Turkish flag.
After being denied entry to the Netherlands, Cavusoglu spoke to more than a hundred Turkish emigres in the northern French city of Metz. French officials had said Saturday they had no plans to prevent his appearance.
Many European Union member states object to visits by Turkish ministers calling for Turkish nationals to vote for the upcoming referendum to change Turkey’s constitution, because of domestic tensions the campaigning has caused. Ankara wants to drum up support among millions of Turks who live and work in Europe to give Erdogan more powers, which could see him remain in office until 2029.
Dutch far-right leader Wilders waded into the debate this week ahead of a planned rally in The Hague, where the Dutch parliament is located.
“We are in Holland here, not in Turkey, and a Turkish minister has no room here to lobby for somebody like Erdogan, who is a mere dictator,” Wilders said.
On Saturday, Wilders said in a tweet: “To all Turks in the Netherlands who agree with Erdogan: Go to Turkey and NEVER come back!!”