The Turkish Foreign Ministry has summoned the Netherlands' charge d'affaires in Ankara after authorities in the Dutch city of Rotterdam withdrew the landing permission for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s plane in an escalating row over Turkey's campaign rallies in Europe.
“We have summoned the Dutch deputy ambassador today,” said an official from the foreign ministry on Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity, a few hours after the Dutch government announced that it had barred the Turkish minister from landing on the soil of the Netherlands, citing “public safety” and “security” concerns.
Cavusoglu had planned to attend and address a massive rally scheduled to be held by the supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Rotterdam in an attempt to whip up support for a “Yes” vote among tens of thousands of Turkish voters ahead of the April 16 referendum on whether to increase Erdogan’s power.
The European country is currently home to 400,000 people of Turkish origin.
Cavusoglu also had plans to hold a meeting at the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam later on Saturday, after the conclusion of the rally. In an interview with the CNNTürk conducted earlier in the day and after the announcement of the travel ban, he said if the Dutch government refused to let him land on the Netherlands' soil later in the day, Ankara would impose sanctions on the European country.
“If the Netherlands cancels my flight clearance today, then we will impose severe sanctions on it that will affect it economically and politically,” he said, stressing that he would travel to the Netherlands later in the day.
Meanwhile, the Turkish president lashed out at the Dutch government for at the decision, saying the ban was reminiscent of Nazism. He said Ankara would retaliate.
“How will your country’s [diplomatic] flights come here now after not granting permission to our foreign minister?” Erdogan asked the Dutch authorities, speaking at a ceremony in Istanbul on Saturday. He added that authorities in the Netherlands “neither know politics nor international diplomacy… These are the remnants of Nazis, they are fascists.”
Also on Saturday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded to the threats of sanctions made by the Turkish president and foreign minister, saying, “Of course we can never negotiate with Turks under such threats. So then, we decided … that it was better for him not to come to the Netherlands.”
He also said that the Dutch government had earlier told Turkish authorities that “we are against such a visit because this is a Turkish minister and we don't think it is right for Turkish ministers to campaign in the Netherlands amongst Dutch people with potentially a Turkish passport, but first of all Dutch people, to campaign in the Netherlands.”
Rutte said Erdogan’s Nazi comments were “crazy, out of line.”
Amsterdam had previously expressed opposition to Ankara’s plans for holding a referendum rally there.
In addition to the Netherlands, Germany has also canceled two Turkish ministers’ plans for rallies.
If Erdogan wins the referendum, he would be able to serve for a maximum of two five-year-long mandates, which means he could stay in office for two more terms until 2029, with the next elections scheduled for 2019.
The new Turkish constitution would also reportedly pave the way for the abolition of the post of prime minister, in which Erdogan served from 2003 until 2014, and enable the appointment of vice presidents. It would also empower the president to hire and fire ministers.