Netherlands bars Turkish minister's flight

Mr Cavusoglu said the Dutch treated Turkish citizens in the country like ''hostages''.
Mr Cavusoglu said the Dutch treated Turkish citizens in the country like ''hostages''.

He was to attend Rotterdam rally to win diaspora votes for Erdogan

AMSTERDAM • The Netherlands barred Turkey's Foreign Minister from flying to Rotterdam yesterday and President Tayyip Erdogan responded by calling his Nato partner a "Nazi remnant" as a row over Ankara campaigning among emigre Turkish voters intensified.

Rotterdam had banned Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from attending a Turkish rally in support of President Erdogan's drive for sweeping new powers, to be put to a referendum next month.

The Dutch are due to vote in a national election on Wednesday, in which anti-immigration sentiment has played a prominent role with nationalist candidate Geert Wilders calling Mr Erdogan a dictator.

Mr Cavusoglu had said yesterday morning he would fly to Rotterdam anyway and accused the Dutch of treating Turkish citizens in the country like "hostages". "I sent them so they could contribute to your economy... They're not your captives," he told CNN Turk television.

"If my going will increase tensions, let it be. What damage will my going have on them? I am a foreign minister and I can go wherever I want," he said before the Dutch barred his flight.

Mr Cavusoglu had threatened harsh economic and political sanctions if the Dutch refused him entry, a threat that proved decisive for the Netherlands government.

It cited public order and security concerns in withdrawing landing rights for his flight. But it said the sanctions threat made the search for a reasonable solution impossible.

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 authorised 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."

Yesterday, he denounced Mr Erdogan's Nazi comment as "crazy" and "way out of line".

Meanwhile, state-run Anadolu news agency said Turkey's Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya will travel to Rotterdam by land instead.

Mr Erdogan is looking to the large number of emigre Turks living in Europe to help clinch victory in next month's referendum.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'Netherlands bars Turkish minister's flight'. Print Edition | Subscribe