Binali Yıldırım says there will be ‘strong countermeasures’ after minister was prevented from campaigning on Erdoğan referendum in Rotterdam
The Turkish prime minister has threatened the Netherlands with sanctions in retaliation for the expulsion of a government minister from the country as she tried to visit the consulate in Rotterdam.
Binali Yıldırım said the Dutch authorities had violated Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya’s diplomatic immunity when she was barred from entering the consulate as part of a Turkish referendum campaign.
The Netherlands opposed the visit because it clashed with next week’s Dutch general election, prompting an international row that threatened to overshadow the parliamentary poll on Wednesday.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said Kaya’s visit was “irresponsible” and she had defied requests from The Hague to stay away. “Since last week [foreign affairs] minister Bert Koenders and I have been constantly trying to de-escalate the situation,” he told WNL Op Zondag. “We need to talk about this.”
On Sunday Rutte called the Turkish government’s stance bizarre and unacceptable and called for talks to resolve the impasse. He said Turkey had crossed a diplomatic line. “This has never happened before,” he said, “a country saying someone is not welcome and then them coming regardless.”
During a standoff in Rotterdam lasting around four hours, Kaya accused police of violating “human rights, democracy and international law” by barring her entry to the consulate. Just after 1am she was led away to a car, protesting vocally, and escorted over the border to Germany, from where she flew back to Ankara by private jet.
Around an hour later police dispersed the remnants of a crowd of several thousand demonstrators using water cannon and mounted charges. Twelve people were arrested and several shop windows were smashed on Rotterdam’s Plein 1940, but large-scale violence was avoided.
The crowd gathered outside the consulate during the evening, chanting slogans and waving Turkish flags as the events were broadcast live on several Turkish news channels.
Yıldırım said Turkey would respond to Kaya’s expulsion with “strong countermeasures”. The residences of the Dutch ambassador, chargé d’affaires and consul general in Ankara were sealed off on Saturday night in what were described as security measures.
The row escalated swiftly on Saturday after the Dutch government withdrew permission for Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, to land in the Netherlands by plane. Çavuşoğlu had had a request turned down on Friday to address a campaign rally in support of plans by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to extend his powers, which Turks will vote on in a referendum next month.
Koenders said talks between the two governments had broken down when Çavuşoğlu said on television that Turkey would respond to the ban with sanctions. In a statement, the government said: “The search for a reasonable solution proved to be impossible. The verbal aggression by the Turkish authorities that followed today [Saturday] is unacceptable.”
Erdoğan branded the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” and fascists in response to the landing ban. It follows a similar row with the German government when Çavuşoğlu was banned from speaking in Hamburg, prompting Erdoğan to draw comparisons with the Nazi era.
The mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said at a press conference just before 2am that Kaya had been designated an “unwanted foreign national” and ordered to leave the country with her security personnel.
Aboutaleb claimed Turkey’s consul general had given him false assurances that the minister would not be going to the consulate. “He lied flat-out. He called on people to come to the consulate where the minister would be giving a speech,” Aboutaleb said.
In response to Erdoğan’s comments, the mayor said: “They ought to know that I’m the mayor of a city that was bombarded by the Nazis.”
The Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders seized on the row as he looked to revive his flagging election campaign before Wednesday’s vote. Wilders, who is campaigning on a platform of “de-Islamising” the Netherlands, said on Twitter: “The Netherlands can see that these people are Turks, not Dutch. They have Dutch passports but they don’t belong here.”