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Erdogan slams ‘Nazi’ Dutch over plane landing row

Steffi Loos, AFP | Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visits his country's hall at the Internationale Tourismus-Boerse (ITB) international travel trade show in Berlin on March 8, 2017.

A Netherlands-Turkey row sharply escalated Saturday as the Dutch withdrew landing permission for the Turkish foreign minister's plane, prompting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call them "Nazi remnants" and "fascists".

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The Netherlands withdrew landing permission for Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier Saturday due to objections over the Turkish diplomat’s intention to address a campaign rally in the Dutch city of Rotterdam supporting a Turkish constitutional reform that will give Erdogan greater powers.

Turkey is set to hold a referendum April 16.

Erdogan was addressing a pro-constitutional reform rally in Istanbul when the news broke. Responding to the Dutch move, Erdogan said, "They do not know politics or international diplomacy.”

“These Nazi remnants, they are fascists," he added, as the crowd booed.

He also threatened to block Dutch flights into Turkey. "You can stop our foreign minister's plane all you want, let's see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on," he said.

Reporting from Ankara, FRANCE 24’s Turkey correspondent Jasper Mortimer noted that Erdogan used the plane incident to “whip up support. He accused the Dutch government of being fascist and said it had Nazi remnants as if the Netherlands had supported Nazi Germany during World War II when in fact Holland was occupied by Nazi Germany during the war. He also said, ‘how would Dutch planes land in Turkey in future.’ In other words, he was threatening to make life difficult for KLM planes when they next come to Istanbul.”

“One doesn’t know if he will follow through on this,” said Mortimer.

Responding to Erdogan’s comments, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that "it is a crazy remark, of course. But I understand they are angry, but this is of course way out of line."

Turkey also summoned the Dutch charges d'affaires in protest.

‘I sent them so they could contribute’

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

"I sent them so they could contribute to your economy," he told CNN Turk TV, days ahead of Dutch polls where immigration may play a significant part. "They're not your captives."

"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.

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

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

The Dutch government said it had been searching with Turkish authorities for an "acceptable solution" to Cavusoglu's plan to campaign in the Netherlands, but "before these talks were completed, Turkish authorities publicly threatened sanctions. That makes the search for a reasonable solution impossible".

Family minister says stopped near Rotterdam consulate

Hours after Cavusoglu’s plane was refused landing permission, Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said in a Twitter post that she was stopped 30 metres from the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam and prevented from entering the building.

Kaya travelled to Rotterdam by road from Germany, where she was on a previously scheduled visit.

Earlier Saturday, a Turkish foreign ministry official told AP that the Dutch Embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul were closed off because of security reasons. Similar precautions were taken at the Dutch charge d'affaires' house and the ambassador's residence.

‘Wilders is racist, fascist, Nazi’

The diplomatic row comes just days before the Netherlands goes to the polls in a March 15 election 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.

After Wilders accused the government of a weak response to Turkish plans to send ministers to the Netherlands to campaign, he insisted it was his pressure which made the difference.

"Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here!!," he said in a Twitter message, referring to his Party for Freedom. He later added, "I am telling all Turks in the Netherlands that agree with Erdogan: GO to Turkey and NEVER come back!!"

Earlier Saturday, Cavusoglu said, "Wilders is racist, fascist, Nazi, like a Nazi."

There are about 350,000 Turkish citizens living in the Netherlands, most of whom supported Erdogan’s AK Party in the 2015 Turkish general elections.

But, Mortimer noted, it was difficult to gauge if Turks in the Netherlands overwhelmingly supported a constitutional reform. “I spoke to a Turk in Amsterdam who told me that even AK Party supporters in the Netherlands will not support Erdogan accusing the Dutch of being Nazis and fascists. He said this will make Turks feel uncomfortable in the Netherlands, it will make their integration into Dutch society more difficult and it will give ammunition to the right-wing, anti-immigration parties.”

Turkish foreign minister expected in France

The diplomatic row comes at a time when relations between Turkey and the EU have been steadily worsening, especially in the wake of Erdogan's actions since last year's failed coup.

More than 41,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 civil servants fired from their jobs.

The Dutch move comes days after a number of German cities blocked “Yes” campaign rallies, prompting Erdogan to accuse Germany of indulging in “Nazi practices”.

Meanwhile Cavusoglu is expected Sunday in France, where he is set to hold a meeting in the eastern city of Metz. Cavusoglu was invited by local Turkish association in Metz, city authorities told AFP.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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