Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Netherlands "the capital of fascism" during a speech in France Sunday, as tensions over Ankara's political campaigning among Turkish immigrants in Europe escalated over the weekend.
"The Netherlands, the so-called capital of democracy, and I say this in quotation marks because they are actually the capital of fascism...," remarked Cavusoglu during his visit to the northeastern French city of Metz.
Cavusoglu was addressing a gathering organised by a local Turkish association in Metz ahead of an April 16 referendum on whether to amend the Turkish constitution. The Turkish government is campaigning for a “yes” vote, which would considerably increase the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish foreign minister’s remarks at the Metz campaign stop came even as his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, issued a statement Sunday calling for calm as tensions between Ankara and a number of European capitals have been mounting over the Turkish government’s bid to rally the diaspora across the EU.
"Given the current tensions between Turkey and several member states of the European Union, France calls for a de-escalation," said the statement released by the French foreign ministry, which also called on “the Turkish authorities to avoid excesses and provocations”.
With just weeks to go before the April 23 first round of the French presidential election, right wing candidates such as François Fillon on Sunday criticised President François Hollande’s government for allowing Cavusoglu to address the rally in Metz.
But the French foreign ministry noted that, "In the absence of a proven threat to public order, there was no reason to prohibit the meeting."
War of words
The Metz meeting came amid plummeting Turkish-Dutch relations sparked by the Netherlands’ refusal to grant Cavusoglu’s airplane landing permission Saturday in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, where he was scheduled to address a “yes” rally.
Tensions simmered Sunday as the Dutch authorities expelled Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, sparking protests in Rotterdam Sunday.
The Netherlands, which holds general elections on Wednesday, had repeatedly said Cavusoglu and Kaya were not welcome to campaign for the April 16 referendum.
On Saturday, Erdogan reacted angrily to the decision, accusing the Dutch of being "the vestiges of Nazis".
"They are the vestiges of the Nazis, they are fascists," Erdogan told an Istanbul rally on Saturday, days after he angrily compared moves to block similar rallies in Germany to "Nazi practices".
The war of words continued Sunday when Erdogan called on "all international organisations" to impose sanctions on the Netherlands, who he said was behaving "like a banana republic".
In response, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on Turkey to apologise for comparing the Dutch to the Nazis, calling the comments “unacceptable”.
Provocations win Erdogan elections
The latest developments come as analysts predict a tight outcome in the Turkish constitutional referendum. With Turkish society deeply divided over the controversial constitutional amendment the diaspora in Europe could play a critical role.
The Netherlands is home to around 400,000 people of Turkish origin while Germany has more than 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey.
Reporting from Ankara, FRANCE 24’s Jasper Mortimer noted that the latest diplomatic rows between the Turkish government and several European countries could work in Erdogan’s favour when Turks go to the polls in the critical April 16 referendum.
“What counts is how all of this will play out in the referendum on April 16,” explained Mortimer.
“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tends to win elections by polarising the atmosphere, provoking divisions within society, talking about 'them' and 'us'. So, what is happening now suits his purposes. I’ve heard some Turks say Erdogan is insisting that his ministers go to Europe even though these European countries have made it clear that they’re not welcome in order to provoke incidents that Erdogan can use to whip up support.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-03-12