© Osman Orsal / Reuters
People wave Turkish flags during a protest in front of the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul
The Dutch embassy and consulate in Turkey have been closed off for security reasons, Reuters reported citing Turkish foreign ministry. A mass rally took place outside the consulate in Istanbul after Turkish Foreign Minister was refused landing in the Netherlands.
The residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d'affaires and consul general were also closed off, according to the same source.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said earlier in a statement that Ankara did not want "the Dutch ambassador, currently on leave, to return to his post for some time."
"It has been explained to our counterparts that this grave decision taken against Turkey and the Dutch Turkish community will cause serious problems diplomatically, politically, economically and in other areas," the statement said, as cited by Reuters.
The move follows the Dutch government barring Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam.
Initially, Cavusoglu was to speak at a rally organized by Ankara to promote the referendum on amending the Turkish constitution among Turks living in the Netherlands.
The withdrawal of permission for Cavusoglu to land was condemned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who lashed out at Dutch officials, calling them "Nazi remnants, fascists."
Just hours before the shutdown of Dutch diplomatic buildings, another top Turkish official, Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was blocked from entering a Turkish consulate in Rotterdam by Dutch police. The move has triggered mass protests of Turkish community members outside the building.
Tensions between Ankara and Amsterdam have been building up for some time, before reaching a breaking point on Saturday night.
Netherlands has repeatedly warned Turkey against interfering in its internal affairs.
In August, the Turkish Consul General in the Netherlands was reported to have sent a letter instructing mayors of several Dutch towns close to Rotterdam on how to fend off protests staged by opponents of the Turkish government. The document has caused outrage in Amsterdam, with Foreign Minister Bert Koenders saying that that protest activity in Holland is its own internal issue, and has "nothing to do with the Turkish government."
Back in April, much controversy was sparked by the letter penned by a Turkish consulate official circulating on social media, in which he asked Turkish citizens living in the Netherlands to brief the consulate on the "messages from people who are insulting our president, the Turkish national or Turkey in general."
The Dutch authorities said that it would ask "for an explanation" from Ankara, following the incident.
Comment: Update 1:
Turkish protesters outside the consulate general of the Netherlands in Istanbul pulled down
the Dutch flag and replaced it with Turkey's as a diplomatic row escalates between the two countries.
NTV reports that the Dutch flag was taken down at midday for about an hour on Sunday before being restored above the consulate.
One member of a small group of protesters that gathered outside the consulate's gates early on Sunday managed to climb onto the building's roof despite police barricades. He then lowered the Dutch flag and raised the Turkish one in its place.
Protests are continuing outside the building with demonstrators throwing eggs and chanting anti-Dutch slogans. A similar rally also took place in front of the Dutch embassy in the capital, Ankara.
The Dutch will "pay the price" for its "shameless" treatment of Turkey's minister, President Recep Tayip Erdogan said
in a strongly-worded statement. He also urged international organizations to put sanctions on the Netherlands.
"If you are willing to sacrifice Turkish-Dutch relations, you will pay for it," Erdogan said on Sunday, as cited by Hurriyet. "What's more, we're not done yet," the Turkish leader added.
Over the past few days, the West has revealed its "true face," Erdogan continued, referring to the recent deportation of Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who was escorted out of the Netherlands by police.
Erdogan reiterated his previous assertion that the Netherlands' conduct towards the Turkish officials was a sign of "Nazism, fascism," repeating once again. "I said Nazism is dead. I thought Nazism was over, but I was wrong. It turns out that Nazism is reawakening in the West," the president asserted.
"They will pay the price of treating my citizens, my foreign minister... in an impudent way," he said.
Banning the family minister from entering the Turkish consulate was inconsistent with the freedom of movements, Erdogan said, hinting that he himself may travel to Europe to attend the rallies: "I can go to any country I want if I have a diplomatic passport."
The Dutch "will learn what diplomacy is," Erdogan said, adding that their actions "cannot remain unanswered," according to AFP.
"They went as far as to lock the door of the consulate [in Rotterdam]," he stated.
The Dutch government has infuriated
President Erdogan's supporters in the Netherlands by preventing two Ankara ministers from staging rallies for the Turkish diaspora. Footage from RT's Ruptly agency captures the violent scenes that happened next.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu's plane was on Saturday barred from landing in the Netherlands following an exchange of warnings and threats between the two countries. Separately, Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya attempted to meet with supporters at the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam, but was prevented from doing so by police and eventually expelled from the country.
Both officials were planning to rally Turkish expatriates in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the April referendum on boosting presidential powers. A large crowd of pro-Erdogan demonstrators took to Turkey's Consulate in Rotterdam, despite Turkish officials allegedly telling the Dutch there had been no rally planned.
While the Netherlands said "security reasons" were behind the decision to ban the public gathering, calling Ankara's threat of sanctions the last straw, Turkey took the move as political, accusing the Dutch of trampling on democratic rights and freedoms, and of attempting to meddle in Turkish affairs.
The unfolding crisis between Turkey and the Netherlands has been provoked
by Dutch domestic politics, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, adding that the harshest possible response is soon to follow.
"It seems the Netherlands has internal issues. General elections will be held on March 15. We think what we have been through today because of this election is based on internal politics," he told local broadcaster TV24 on Sunday, as cited by Anadolu news agency.
The Netherlands is holding parliamentary elections in mid-March, and various polls suggest that the far-right anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) led by firebrand Geert Wilders is likely to emerge as the kingdom's most popular party. Wilders will be competing against Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal VVD party.
Dutch police treated
a Turkish delegation in a "harsh and rude way" despite the members' diplomatic immunity, Turkey's expelled family minister said upon her return in Istanbul.
Quoted by Anadolu news agency, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya told reporters at Istanbul Ataturk airport that Dutch police had detained the entire Turkish delegation, including the chargé d'affaires and the minister's advisor, as well as five people from her security detail.
"We were taken to the police headquarters and stayed there for 1.5 hours, and we were given very harsh and rude treatment," Kaya said, noting "the European attitude towards a female minister three days after the International Women's Day is a tragicomedy."
The minister also pointed out that she had diplomatic immunity and that the Turkish consulate where she was expected to speak was "part of our homeland and we do not need to get permission for [entering it]."
Adam Garrie of The Duran writes
that The Netherlands has "lowered itself beneath Erdogan" in its behavior towards the Turkish diplomats. Also, in regards to the Dutch authorities not allowing the Turkish diplomats to attend the planned pro-Erdogan rally:
There is no indication that the Turkish rallies planned for Holland would not be peaceful political rallies. If the Dutch authorities were overly worried that the rallies would not be peaceful, they could simply refuse to sanction the event.
Removing a foreign Minister of State and refusing to allow another to enter the country, does not only violate basic decency and the most fundamental rules of diplomacy, it is downright petty, childish, dogmatic and extreme.
If the planned rally was that much of a problem for the Dutch authorities, they could have had more meaningful consultations with Turkey in order to reach some sort of accord. If this wasn't possible, the UN would have been the only proper forum to settle such a dispute.
As it turns out, Holland's diplomatic inanity has meant that the rally has not only taken place but that it became bigger and more heated than it reasonably could have been expected to be, had the ministers been allowed to carry out their normal duties. It has also meant that Erdogan, whose victory in the 16 April referendum would have been won by hook or by crook anyway, is now assured. He will use this to whip up feelings of Turkish animosity in Europe, a method he has used time and again to increase his power base.
What's more is that because of seeing large numbers of people shouting in a foreign language in Dutch streets, Geert Wilders may pick up even more votes than expected in this week's Dutch Parliamentary elections, something which won't sit well with the government which decided to provoke Turkey unjustifiably.
Holland has shamed itself by resorting to such measures. It is unfathomable that a responsible country like Russia would ever stoop so low.
Turkish PM Yildirim's upcoming meeting
with Danish PM Rasmussen has been postponed due to the Netherlands business.
"With the current Turkish attacks on Holland, the meeting cannot be seen separated from that. I have therefore proposed to my Turkish colleague that the meeting will be postponed," Rasmussen said in a press release.
Turkey will challenge the Netherlands in the European Court of Human Rights over its refusal to allow Turkish officials to enter the country and deliver campaign speeches, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned
In an interview with A Haber television following a cabinet meeting in Ankara on Monday evening, the Turkish leader also promised to deploy "whatever sanctions we have" and to "hold the Netherlands accountable," as quoted by Reuters.
Dutch PM Rutte responded
to Turkey's threat of sanctions today:
"We will never negotiate under threats by the Turkish government," Rutte, who faces a parliamentary election on Wednesday, told the media in a press conference in Rotterdam.
The Turkish cabinet is expected to meet on Monday evening, to discuss potential sanctions against the European state, after its Foreign Ministry said the spat would produce "serious consequences in our relations in terms of diplomatic, political, economic and other aspects."
Rutte said he would attempt to "de-escalate" the row, but conceded that "it takes two to tango." Simultaneously, he made no apology for the Netherlands' handling of the diplomatic crisis.
Rutte, speaking in English, told the largely international press that the government "doesn't want Turkish politicians to campaign here," not least because it was "uncomfortable" with the nature of their campaign. The Turkish officials are advocating the approval in next month's referendum of a strengthening of Tayyip Recep Erdogan's presidential powers, which Rutte said was "pushing the country in the wrong direction."
He added that Turkish politicians "tell us that 400,000 people of Turkish descent in the Netherlands are Turkish citizens, but they are Dutch citizens." Rutte said that while the government contemplated allowing small-scale meetings with Turkish politicians inside consulates, it had security concerns about bigger rallies.
The Netherlands also issued a travel warning
to its citizens to be careful visiting Turkey: "Stay alert across the whole of Turkey and avoid gatherings and crowded places", the warning said. Ankara summoned the Dutch envoy in response to their minister's denial of access to the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. They gave him two formal notes of protest: one, requesting a formal apology for their treatment of Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, the second, protesting the "disproportionate force" used against gatherings of the Turkish community in the Netherlands (i.e., use of dogs and water cannons).
Some of the protesters threw bottles and stones, and several were beaten by police with batons, a witness told Reuters. Mounted police officers also charged the crowd.
The demonstration was part of Erdogan's efforts to drum up support for a 'yes' vote to an upcoming referendum on whether to turn from a parliamentary to a presidential republic.
Turkey has officially banned
the Dutch ambassador, suspended all diplomatic flights and high-level government meetings between Turkey and Netherlands.
"We are doing exactly what they did to us. We are not allowing planes carrying Dutch diplomats or envoys from landing in Turkey or using our airspace," [Deputy PM] Kurtulmus said. "Those creating this crisis are responsible for fixing it."
Kurtulmus said that his government further recommends that Parliament revokes an official friendship agreement between Turkey and the Netherlands.
Kurtulmus added that the actions of Netherlands, which prevented the Turkish foreign minister from landing in the country and mistreating the country's family minister, were a sign of the collapse of Europe.
Turkey's EU Affairs Minister also says Ankara should reconsider
its migrant deal with the EU:
While dangerous sea journeys from Turkey should still be prevented, "the issue of transit from the land must be reconsidered," Omer Celik told the state-backed Anadolu news agency.
Celik repeated the official position that in exchange for accepting the return of some asylum seekers to its territory from Europe, Turkey's citizens should be entitled to visa-free travel in Europe, as well as billions worth of other types of assistance.
Celik's latent threat comes two days after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN "either it [the March 2016 agreement] will all be canceled, including the visa liberalization and migrant deal, or it will all be implemented."
Neither politician linked their statements to the rapidly unfolding diplomatic crisis between Ankara and several European states. Most of Celik's interview was concerned with the Netherlands, which he accused of "violations of democracy and the rule of law."
Rutte has called Turkey's call for sanctions "bizarre
", adding that the Netherlands itself has "reasons to be very angry" about the weekend's events. Turkey's Foreign Ministry then slammed
the EU for siding with the Netherlands:
"EU counterparts are exercising democratic values and basic rights and freedoms selectively," the ministry said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters. "It is very grave for the EU to hide behind member country solidarity and stand by the Netherlands, which has clearly violated human rights and European values," it continued.
The ministry went on to address a Monday statement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn. It called on Turkey to refrain from "excessive statements" following the tensions of last days between Turkey and some EU member states to avoid escalating the dispute. It accused that statement of including "inaccurate assessments" and helping "the cause of extremes such as xenophobia and anti-Turkish sentiment," as cited by Reuters.
See our SOTT Focus: The Bigger Picture: What's Behind the Souring Relationship Between Turkey and The Netherlands
On Tuesday, Erdogan called the Netherlands a "rotten" "terrorist" state
, and blamed them for Srebrenica. Then on Wednesday, EU Council President Tusk responded
to the various charges from Turkish officials that Netherlands is fascist as "completely detached from reality. Juncker warned that the comments "distance" Turkey from EU membership. Berlin threatened
to ban Turkish politicians as a "last resort" in response to the Nazi comparisons there too.
Given the economic ties between the Netherlands and Turkey, it's unsurprising that Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs reassured
observers that Dutch investment was safe despite the diplomatic impasse. But the rhetoric keeps coming. Today, Turkish FM Cavusoglu warned
that Europe is headed for "wars of religion" and Dutch politicians are taking Europe "to a cliff". Turkish politicians may appear a little unhinged, but their statements are actually pretty close to the truth!
Now, the latest developments: Turkey has blocked
some training exercises with NATO partner countries, a move apparently aimed at Austria. Cavusoglu has threatened
to cancel the migrant agreement with the EU.
Turkey's interior minister says
Ankara could send 15,000 refugees a month to Europe, to "blow its mind." He said the bloc is "playing games" to prevent Turkey from becoming strong, taking direct aim at Germany and the Netherlands.
"I'm telling you, Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don't send each month and blow your mind," Süleyman Soylu said late Thursday, according to Hurriyet.
The minister was referring to a deal between the EU and Ankara, under which Turkey agreed to help stop the flow of refugees across its border and take back migrants rejected for asylum in Europe.
Ankara agreed to the deal in exchange for billions in refugee assistance from the EU and accelerated talks on becoming a member of the bloc.
It also rallied for visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen zone as part of the deal, but was told by the EU that a list of 72 conditions must first be met - a key sticking point of which is Turkey's strict anti-terrorism laws, which Europe has said must be loosened in order for the agreement to go ahead.
Austria has canceled
contracts for Turkish concert events in Salzburg and Tyrol on the weekend, over concerns they may be political in nature. This comes amid an escalating row between Turkey and the EU over pro-Erdogan rallies, banned by several EU states.
The Olympic Hall of Innsbruck in Tyrol state, western Austria, on Thursday decided to cancel a performance by Turkish artists Osman Oztunc and Gokhan Tekin scheduled for Saturday, citing newly-obtained information about the organization of the event and the artists, Tiroler Tageszeitung reported. According to Olympic Hall authorities, they made an inquiry into the musicians' performances at previous venues and came to a conclusion the event in Innsbruck was to have political content.
"If this fact were known, the [Olympic Hall] would never have agreed to sign a contract [with the musicians]. [Our] terms and conditions are clear. The purpose of the event is an essential part of the contract, a one-sided change entails its immediate cancelation," Managing Director Michael Bielowski told the press.
Furthermore, according to Prime Minister of Tyrol Guenther Platter, the musicians "clearly belong to the Turkish nationalist and far-right scene and are close to the Grey Wolves," the radical wing of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Austria's Die Presse reported. The group is classified as an extremist organization in Austria.
Apart from Tyrol, the municipality of Henndorf (Salzburg) also announced it was canceling the rental agreement it had signed for the use of its Wallersee Hall for a concert by the Turkish musicians planned for next Sunday.
The event is known to have been organized and promoted by the Avusturya Türk Federasyon, allegedly an umbrella organization of the Gray Wolves.
The hall was initially booked for a private event, reportedly celebrating a Turkish Spring Festival. Although the organizer is said to have refused political activities to be scheduled for the ceremony, Henndorf Mayor Rupert Eder ordered for the agreement to be terminated.