Dutch mayor gives go-ahead to pro-Turkish rally amid row with Turkey

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has given his approval for a new demonstration at 1600 GMT on Friday (midnight Friday, Singapore time) starting outside Rotterdam's central station.
Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has given his approval for a new demonstration at 1600 GMT on Friday (midnight Friday, Singapore time) starting outside Rotterdam's central station.PHOTO: EPA

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Rotterdam's mayor gave his authorisation on Thursday (March 16) for a pro-Turkish protest against the Dutch police's handling of a violent demonstration in the port city last weekend.

The move came in the midst of an increasingly vitriolic dispute between Ankara and the EU after several countries, including the Netherlands, blocked Turkish ministers from attending campaign rallies to support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Dutch police on Saturday used dogs, horses and a water cannon against stone-throwing pro-Turkish rioters in Rotterdam who staged an unauthorised protest against the bans.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has given his approval for a new demonstration at 1600 GMT on Friday (midnight Friday, Singapore time) starting outside Rotterdam's central station.

"The demonstration has been asked for to defend the rights of Turks," said his spokesman Lennart de Jong.

Both Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from staging rallies to court the vote of expatriate Turks in an April 16 referendum on giving Erdogan greater powers.

Ankara was especially angered by the Netherlands which prevented the Turkish foreign minister's plane from landing and expelled the family minister.

Over the past fortnight, the row has escalated, with Erdogan repeatedly accusing Dutch and German politicians of acting like "Nazis" and claiming the "spirit of fascism" is rampant in Europe.

On Thursday, Erdogan said his country was no longer friends with the Netherlands. He also accused the EU of starting a "crusade" against Islam after a ruling allowing European firms to ban employees from wearing political or religious symbols - including the Islamic headscarf.

"Europe is swiftly rolling back to the days before World War II," he said in a televised speech.

French President Francois Hollande and Germany's Angela Merkel on Thursday issued a joint statement denouncing as "unacceptable" Erdogan's remarks on Nazism and his aggressive statements against Berlin and other EU nations.