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Netherlands bars female family minister from Turkey’s consulate as row escalates

Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya (R), departed from Cologne Bonn Airport, speaks to media upon her arrival, with the attendance of Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak (L), at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey on March 12, 2017 [Berk Özkan / Anadolu Agency]
Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya (R), departed from Cologne Bonn Airport, speaks to media upon her arrival, with the attendance of Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak (L), at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey on March 12, 2017 [Berk Özkan / Anadolu Agency]

Dutch police used violence this morning to disperse protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, who were there in support of Turkish diplomats and ministers who had been prevented from accessing their own sovereign territory by the Dutch authorities.

Turkey told the Netherlands today that it would retaliate in the “harshest ways” after Turkish ministers were barred from speaking in Rotterdam in a row over Ankara’s political campaigning among Turkish emigres.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier yesterday branded Turkey’s fellow NATO ally a “Nazi remnant” and the dispute escalated into a diplomatic incident later in the evening, when Turkey’s family minister was prevented by police from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

Read: Netherlands branded ‘Nazi remnants’ by Erdogan, as Turkey FM barred from entry

Hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags gathered outside, demanding to see the minister.

Dutch police responded by using attack dogs and water cannons early this morning to disperse the crowd, who then retaliated by throwing bottles and stones. Several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. The police carried out charges on horseback against the demonstrators outside the consulate, while officers advanced on foot with shields and armoured vans before beating the unarmed protesters.

Dutch police officers intervene Turkish citizens gathering outside Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017 [Mesut Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

Dutch police officers intervene Turkish citizens gathering outside Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017 [Mesut Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

Dutch police use water cannon to disperse Turkish citizens gathering outside Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017 [Mesut Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

Dutch police use water cannon to disperse Turkish citizens gathering outside Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017 [Mesut Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

A police dog attacks a man as Dutch police disperse Turkish citizens gathering outside Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017 [Mesut Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

A police dog attacks a man as Dutch police disperse Turkish citizens gathering outside Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017 [Mesut Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

Less than a day after Dutch authorities prevented Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam, Turkey’s family minister, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, said on Twitter she was not being allowed to enter her own country’s sovereign territory, the Turkish consulate, and was being escorted back to Germany.

“The world must take a stance in the name of democracy against this fascist act! This behaviour against a female minister can never be accepted,” she said. The Rotterdam mayor confirmed she was being escorted by police to the German border.

Kaya later boarded a private plane from the German town of Cologne to return to Istanbul, mass-circulating newspaper Hurriyet said today.

The Dutch government, which stands to lose heavily to the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders in elections next week, said it considered the visits undesirable and “the Netherlands could not cooperate in the public political campaigning of Turkish ministers in the Netherlands.”

The government said it saw the potential to import divisions into its own Turkish minority, which has both pro and anti-Erdogan camps. Dutch politicians across the spectrum said they supported Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s decision to ban the visits.

Turkey will respond harshly

In a statement issued early today, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey had told Dutch authorities it would retaliate in the “harshest ways” and “respond in kind to this unacceptable behaviour”.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said it did not want the Dutch ambassador to Ankara to return from leave “for some time”. Turkish authorities sealed off the Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul in apparent retaliation and hundreds gathered there for protests at the Dutch action.

Erdogan is looking to the large number of emigre Turks living in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, to help clinch victory next month in a referendum that would give the presidency sweeping new powers by transforming Turkish democracy from a parliamentary to a presidential system similar to the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will do everything possible to prevent Turkish political tensions spilling onto German soil. Four rallies in Austria and one in Switzerland have been cancelled due to the growing dispute.

Read: German claims Turkey is arresting tourists are ‘bullshit’, says FM

Erdogan has cited domestic threats from Kurdish and Daesh militants and a July coup bid as cause to vote “yes” to his new powers. But he has also drawn on the emotionally charged row with Europe to portray Turkey as betrayed by allies while facing wars on its southern borders.

The Dutch government had banned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from attending a rally on Saturday in Rotterdam but he said he would fly there anyway, saying Europe must be rid of its “boss-like attitude”.

Cavusoglu, who was barred from a similar meeting in Hamburg last week but spoke instead from the Turkish consulate, accused the Dutch of treating the many Turkish citizens in the country like hostages, cutting them off from Ankara.

“If my going will increase tensions, let it be…I am a foreign minister and I can go wherever I want,” he added hours before his planned flight to Rotterdam was banned.

Sanctions threat

Cavusoglu threatened harsh economic and political sanctions if the Dutch refused him entry, and those threats proved decisive for the Netherlands government.

It cited public order and security concerns in withdrawing landing rights for Cavusoglu’s flight and said the threat of sanctions made the search for a reasonable solution impossible.

“This decision is a scandal and unacceptable in every way. It does not abide by diplomatic practices,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday evening.

Read: Turkey vows tenfold retaliation against Dutch government

Dutch anti-Muslim politician Wilders, polling second ahead of Wednesday’s elections, said in a tweet on Saturday: “To all Turks in the Netherlands who agree with Erdogan: Go to Turkey and NEVER come back!!”

Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, said: “This morning on TV [the Turkish minister] made clear he was threatening the Netherlands with sanctions and we can never negotiate with the Turks under such threats. So we decided…in a conference call it was better for him not to come.”

‘Nazi remnants, fascists’

Addressing a rally of supporters, Erdogan retaliated against the decision to prevent the Turkish foreign minister from visiting Rotterdam.

“Listen Netherlands, you’ll jump once, you’ll jump twice, but my people will thwart your game,” he said. “You can cancel our foreign minister’s flight as much as you want, but let’s see how your flights will come to Turkey now.”

“They don’t know diplomacy or politics. They are Nazi remnants. They are fascists,” he said.

Rutte called Erdogan’s reference to Nazis and Fascists “a crazy remark”. He added: “I understand they’re angry but this is of course way out of line”.

Erdogan maintains it is clear the West begrudges him new powers and seeks to engineer a “no” vote in the referendum.

Barred from the Netherlands, Cavusoglu arrived in France on Saturday ahead of a planned speech to Turkish emigres in the northeastern city of Metz on Sunday, a Reuters witness said. Earlier, an official at the Moselle regional prefecture told Reuters there were currently no plans to prevent the meeting from going ahead.

A member of the Union of European Turkish Democrats also said yesterday via a Facebook post that the Turkish foreign minister would no longer come to Switzerland for a planned event today after failing to find a suitable venue.

Zurich’s security department, which had unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government in Bern to ban Cavusoglu’s appearance, said in a statement yesterday evening it was relieved the event had been cancelled.

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