ANKARA/AMSTERDAM The Netherlands on Saturday banned Turkey’s Foreign Minister from flying to Rotterdam as a highly emotional dispute over Ankara’s campaigning among emigre Turks in support of new powers for President Tayyip Erdogan spread through Europe.
The announcement came hours after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the Netherlands was treating Turkish citizens like hostages in hindering their contact with Ankara.
The Dutch government cited public order and security concerns in withdrawing landing rights for Cavusoglu’s flight. But it said Cavusoglu’s threat hours earlier of political and economic sanctions if travel permission were withdrawn made the search for a reasonable solution impossible.
Cavusoglu had been due to fly to Rotterdam to marshal support among the Turkish community for extended powers for President Tayyip Erdogan – a potentially divisive issue in Turkey where a referendum will take place next month. City authorities said on Friday they was banning the rally.
Cavusoglu said on Saturday he would fly anyway, and had been expected to appear at the Turkish consulate, as he had done when city authorities in Hamburg banned him from speaking last week.
“If my going will increase tensions, let it be,” he told CNN Turk. “What damage will my going have on them? I am a foreign minister and I can go wherever I want.”
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that while the Netherlands and Turkey could search for “an acceptable solution”, Turkey was not respecting the rules relating to public gatherings.
“Many Dutch people with a Turkish background are authorized to vote in the referendum over the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government does not have any protest against gatherings in our country to inform them about it,” he said on Facebook.
“But these gatherings may not contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed,” Rutte added.
(Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Writing by Ralph Boulton; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alexander Smith)