Tensions continue to grow between NATO allies Turkey and the Netherlands on Sunday as a Turkish minister was escorted out of the country less than a day after Turkey’s foreign minister was denied entry, prompting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call the Dutch “Nazi remnants.”
The diplomatic dispute was over plans by Turkish government officials to campaign in the Netherlands for a referendum back home. Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya had arrived in the country from Germany but was prevented from entering Turkey’s diplomatic compound in Rotterdam, setting up a standoff with armed police. She was later sent under escort back to Germany.
“The whole world must take action against this fascist practice! Such a treatment against a woman minister cannot be accepted,” Kaya wrote as she was approaching the German border.
“This situation has been protested in the strongest manner by our side, and it has been conveyed to Dutch authorities that there will be retaliation in the harshest ways … We will respond in kind to this unacceptable behavior,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said the Turkish consul general was guilty of a “scandalous deception” after allegedly denying that the minister was coming despite government warnings to stay away.
“He lied to us and didn’t tell the truth,” the mayor said. “The deception worsened when they drove in different columns to Rotterdam” to try to fool Dutch authorities.
The diplomatic clash with Kaya came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was barred from landing in the Netherlands on Saturday and Turkish officials closed off the Dutch Embassy saying its ambassador was no longer welcome.
The Dutch barred Cavusoglu from entering because of objections to his intention to attend a rally in Rotterdam for a referendum on constitutional reforms to expand Erdogan’s powers, which the Dutch see as a step backward from democracy. Turkish officials have been campaigning in various European cities with Turkish populations before the April 16 vote.
The Dutch government said it withdrew permission to land because of “risks to public order and security,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul that the Dutch “do not know politics or international diplomacy.” He compared them to “Nazi remnants, they are fascists.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte called Erdogan’s Nazi comment “a crazy remark.”
Hundreds of pro-Turkey protesters gathered into the night in Rotterdam. The protests led to a scuffle with police as Dutch officials used a water cannon to disperse the group, Reuters reported.
In a written statement early Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country will strongly respond to the Dutch actions.
“There will be a stronger reprisal against the unacceptable treatment toward Turkey and ministers who have diplomatic immunity,” Yildirim said.
A Turkish foreign ministry official who spoke on anonymity said the Dutch Embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul were closed off because of security reasons.
The dispute also comes just days before the Netherlands goes to the polls next Wednesday for the lower house of Parliament. The campaign has been dominated by issues of identity, with anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders set to make strong gains.