Turkey criticises EU for backing Netherlands in diplomatic dispute


Turkey has criticised the European Union for siding with the Netherlands in a diplomatic dispute over Turkish ministers’ campaign plans in the country.

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the EU’s stance on Turkey was “short-sighted” and “carried no value” for Turkey, as well as lending “credence” to extremists.

The spat has raised concerns that co-operation between the EU and Turkey on a number of issues, such as dealing with the flow of migrants from war-torn Syria, may start to fray.

The ministry argued that the European bloc had “ignored the (Netherlands’) violation of diplomatic conventions and the law” after Dutch authorities escorted the Turkish family affairs minister out of the country and denied the foreign minister permission to land.

The two ministers had sought to campaign and court the votes of Turks in the Netherlands that are eligible to vote in an April 16 referendum on expanding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Around 400,000 people with ties to Turkey live in the Netherlands.

The diplomatic spat between the two countries escalated swiftly, with Mr Erdogan making several Nazi comparisons with EU member states Germany and the Netherlands. The EU has called on Turkey to cease “excessive statements”.

On Monday, Turkey slapped a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands, including halting political discussions between the two countries and closing Turkish airspace to Dutch diplomats.
Other sanctions bar the Dutch ambassador entry back into Turkey and advise parliament to withdraw from a Dutch-Turkish friendship group.

Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said the sanctions would apply until the Netherlands takes steps “to redress” the actions that Ankara sees as a grave insult.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed the Netherlands in its diplomatic fight with Turkey, pledging her full support and solidarity with the Dutch and saying the Nazi gibes were unacceptable.

Mr Erdogan responded angrily to Mrs Merkel’s support for the Netherlands, exclaiming “Shame on you!” during a television interview on Monday. Mrs Merkel has refrained from reacting to Mr Erdogan.
“The chancellor has no intention of participating in the race of provocations,” Mrs Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said. “She won’t play along. The accusations are recognisably absurd.”

Also on Monday, the German foreign ministry amended its travel advice for Turkey, noting that “elevated political tensions and protests that could also be directed against Germany” should be expected during the referendum campaign.

It recommended that travellers stay away from political events and large gatherings of people.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Rotterdam said that specialised armed security forces he sent to a stand-off with Turkish family affairs minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya on Saturday night had permission to open fire if necessary.

Speaking late on Monday night on a television talk show, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said he sent the special armed intervention unit to the Turkish consulate amid fears that a 12-man security detail that had driven to the Netherlands from Germany with the minister could be armed.

Mr Aboutaleb said on the Nieuwsuur show that it was important to “be sure that if it came to a confrontation that we would be the boss” and that the unit had been given “permission to shoot”. The Turkish minister was eventually escorted out of the Netherlands in the early hours of Sunday.

Earlier, the Dutch had also refused Turkey’s foreign minister permission to visit.
Both ministers wanted to address rallies about next month’s constitutional reform referendum on giving Mr Erdogan more power.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte repeated on Tuesday, on the last day of campaigning for Dutch elections that have been overshadowed by the diplomatic crisis, that authorities are working to de-escalate tensions with Ankara.

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