THE diplomatic rift between Turkey and the Netherlands widened yesterday following European criticism of the Turkish president’s power-grab.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the failure of Dutch peacekeepers to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia showed the “rotten character” of the Netherlands.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hit back, calling Mr Erdogan’s comments a “disgusting distortion of history.”
“We will not lower ourselves to this level,” he said.
Mr Rutte’s hardline posturing failed to impress Islamophobic Party of Freedom leader Geert Wilders, his main rival in today’s general election.
In a TV debate Mr Wilders said: “You are being taken hostage by Erdogan. Close the Dutch borders.”
Mr Rutte replied: “That’s a totally fake solution,” before attacking Mr Wilders’s support for “Nexit.”
On Sunday, Mr Erdogan claimed that “nazism is alive in the West” after the Dutch authorities denied Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s plane permission to land and intercepted Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya’s motorcade.
They had been due to speak at a rally in Rotterdam calling for a Yes vote in Turkey’s April 16 referendum on handing unprecedented powers to the presidency, until now a largely ceremonial role.
Hundreds of thousands of Turkish immigrants in the Netherlands can vote in the plebiscite, along with more than a million in Germany.
In the German state of Saarland, Governor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of the governing Christian Democratic Union said yesterday that she would use “all opportunities” to ban Yes campaign meetings with Turkish ministers.
On Monday, night Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb fanned the flames when he revealed that police sent to arrest and deport Ms Kaya on Saturday had “permission to shoot.”
In a TV interview he said that it was important to “be sure that, if it came to a confrontation, we would be the boss” in case her 12-man escort were armed.
On Monday, EU foreign policy representative Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said a referendum win for Mr Erdogan would have a “serious effect on the necessary checks and balances and on the independence of the judiciary.”
The Council of Europe’s advisory body the Venice Commission went further, warning against a “one-person regime” in Turkey.
In Ankara, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag responded by claiming that the Venice Commission was a “mouthpiece of Turkey’s opposition.”