The Dutch government announced that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight permit was revoked amid concerns over public order at the expected large gathering of Turkish expatriates.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily to the news, comparing the Dutch government to Nazis.
Addressing crowds at an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “They are timid and coward. They are Nazi remnants and fascists.”
Earlier this week Erdogan had angered German Chancellor Angela Merkel by making similar remarks about Nazism
in her country.
Cavusoglu was due to address Turkish expatriates in Rotterdam to win support for an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish Constitution.
Pushed by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, these sweeping constitutional changes would grant new powers to Turkey’s President and transform the way the country is governed.
Turkish politicians have sought to address rallies in European cities and towns with large populations of Turkish expatriates, but the authorities in several countries have blocked their plans.
Around 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.
In the latest twist in the row, Cavusoglu angered the Dutch by threatening “severe sanctions” if he were banned from traveling to the Rotterdam rally.
“If the Netherlands cancels my flight, we will impose severe sanctions on them that will affect it economically and politically,” the foreign minister said in remarks in a TV interview on CNN Turk.
He added, “If tension will increase (between the two countries) because of my visit, then let it increase.”
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Many Dutch people with Turkish heritage are voting in the referendum on the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government has no objection to meetings in our country in order to inform them about that.
“But these meetings cannot contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to contribute to an event must comply with instructions from the authorities so that public order and security can be guaranteed. It should be noted that, in this respect, the Turkish government does not want to respect those rules.”
Rutte said there had been discussions with the Turkish authorities to try to find a way to hold a smaller-scale meeting in a Turkish Consulate or Embassy.
However, he said, a public threat of sanctions made by the Turks before the negotiations were complete made it impossible to find a “reasonable solution” — so the Netherlands banned the foreign minister’s flight.
The Dutch will vote Wednesday in national elections
in a campaign that has focused heavily on the issue of immigration from Muslim countries.
Far-right presidential candidate Geert Wilders
praised the decision to bar the Turkish minister from speaking in Rotterdam, taking credit due to the influence of his party, the Party For Freedom, or PVV.
“Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here,” Wilders wrote.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires Saturday following the decision to bar Cavusoglu’s flight.