March 11, 2017
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the Dutch authorities of being “fascists” after they blocked a flight carrying his foreign minister from travelling to Rotterdam. He also threatened to stop flights to Turkey from the Netherlands.
Mevlut Cavusoglu had been due to address a Turkish rally as part of a campaign to win expats’ support for a constitutional referendum that could give the president sweeping new powers.
You can stop our foreign minister’s plane all you want, let’s see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on
Mr Cavusoglu had threatened economic sanctions against the Netherlands if his landing rights were rescinded, after he had been forced to address Turkish citizens in Hamburg from an embassy balcony after local Germany authorities cancelled rallies there citing public safety.
In the last week, at least four campaign events in Europe aimed at mustering support for Mr Erdogan ahead of an April referendum have been cancelled, prompting Mr Erdogan to accuse German authorities of “Nazi practices”. That triggered howls of protests from ministers in Berlin, who were already exercised by the detention of Deniz Yücel, a Turkish-German journalist working for Die Welt newspaper.
Today, Mr Erdogan he levelled the same accusation at the Netherlands.
“”They do not know politics or international diplomacy,” Mr Erdogan said. “These Nazi remnants, they are fascists.”
“You can stop our foreign minister’s plane all you want, let’s see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on,” he said.
The latest spat comes just days before the Dutch general election.
VVD, the party of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, is attempting to fend off a challenge by Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Party for Freedom by taking a tough line on immigration and integration.
Although VVD enjoys a slim lead in most polls with about 17 per cent, the race is extremely tight with a large minority of Dutch voters still undecided, perhaps making the sight of a large number of Muslim residents publicly supporting Mr Erdogan’s government an unappetising one.
Mr Wilders has already criticised the Dutch government for not being tougher on Mr Erdogan’s record on human rights.
For Mr Erdogan, who is facing a close race in the constitutional referendum, Turkish citizens living in Europe — at least 3m in Germany alone — are a reliable vote bank. They tend to support him in greater numbers than those at home.
The row with western European authorities may benefit Mr Erdogan. By drawing attention to perceived double standards on free speech and hinting that the west is trying to oust him, he has been able to shore up his support among nationalist Turks.
“It certainly helps our campaign here, while reminding voters that the EU is against Turkish progress,” said a Turkish official.
The Dutch government said it had asked Mr Cavusoglu to consider moving the rally to a small, more private setting. It said that the threat of sanctions had scuppered those talks. “Before these talks were completed, Turkish authorities publicly threatened sanctions. That makes the search for a reasonable solution impossible.” the Dutch government said.
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