The Netherlands Warily Takes Center Stage as a Pivotal Election Nears


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday likened a Dutch ban on his foreign minister's visit to Nazism, in a dramatic escalation of a row over campaign events overseas for Turkey's high stakes referendum.

Turkey and the Netherlands escalated their spat on Saturday as the Dutch withdrew landing permission for the Turkish foreign minister's plane.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the decision, saying the ban was reminiscent of Nazism and pledged to retaliate.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tried putting a stop to the skirmish. "I wonder if they know that I am mayor of a city that was bombed by the Nazis", he said in a response to Erdogan's claims.

Erdogan's ministers are keen to tap into the diaspora in Germany, which includes 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey - the fourth-largest electoral base after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

In the past week, several other European countries have prevented Turkish politicians from holding political rallies among Turkish emigres.

The Turks have told the Dutch Ambassador (who was out of the country at the time) to not bother returning and have shuttered some of the Dutch embassies in their nation.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the Dutch charge d'affaires in Ankara was summoned and told Turkey did not want the Dutch ambassador - now on holiday - to return "for a while".

It comes as Germany and the Netherlands revised travel advice for Turkey.

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"You Mr Rutte, are not prime minister of the Netherlands, but prime minister of foreigners".

Protests erupted in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam late Saturday outside the Turkish consulate amid a row with Ankara after Dutch authorities banned the visits of Turkish ministers.

As well, the plane carrying the Foreign Minister for Turkey, Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu, was denied landing rights at Rotterdam's airport by the Dutch authorities.

Earlier Saturday, in an interview with private broadcaster CNN Turk, Cavusoglu said: "If the Netherlands cancels my flight permit, our sanctions to the Netherlands would be heavy".

The upcoming referendum in Turkey over constitutional changes that would usher in an executive presidency system is set to be a close-run contest, pushing the government to campaign more strongly than before outside Turkey.

"As an elected minister, a Turkish citizen and a woman l will never give up against this unlawful treatment", she said.

Starting as he meant to go on, anti-Muslim Mr Wilders accused the Dutch government of spending on "immigrants and Greeks" but not its own people. "It should be noted that, in this respect, the Turkish government does not want to respect those rules".

He said, too, that it was "wrong" for Turkey to send political representatives to the Netherlands in spite the Dutch government's warning that it could inflame tensions.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders had warned Thursday that his government would not facilitate Cavusoglu's visit.