Dutch government formally withdraws ambassador to Turkey over 2017 row

The Dutch Foreign Ministry on Monday said it had formally withdrawn its ambassador to Turkey, who has been physically barred from the country for almost a year, over a dispute that began during March 2017 before April 16 constitutional referendum.

As a result, the Netherlands will also not accept the appointment of a new Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands. In a statement, the ministry said it has “paused” talks with Turkey on resolving the matter. Despite recent talks between the two countries, “we have not agreed on how to normalize ties,” Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlsra said in a statement.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Ankara will hold talks with Amsterdam if it takes concrete steps towards normalization of relations. “At this stage, if the Netherlands shows willingness towards taking concrete steps towards normalization, Turkey is ready to discuss the relations between the two countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy has claimed in a statement.

“Our expectations, towards ensuring normalization of relations between Turkey-Netherlands after the crisis in March 2017 are known,” Aksoy added. He said Dutch authorities had been informed about Turkey’s reservations over the return of Dutch envoy Cornelis Van Rij, who left Turkey nearly a year ago. “As a matter of fact, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Ankara has not come to our country since that date,” he added.

The two governments originally fell out over the Netherlands’ decision to block visas for Turkish officials to campaign among the Turks in the Netherlands in favor of Turkey’s constitutional referendum in March. The Netherlands was holding its own national elections at the time, during which Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blasted the Dutch government for using “Nazi” and “fascist” measures.

The Netherlands had declined a landing permit to a plane carrying Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was scheduled to take part in a referendum campaign in Rotterdam. The Dutch authorities also barred Family Minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam. She was forced to remain inside her vehicle for hours before being deported to Germany.

The incidents had led to tension between two countries and the Turkish Foreign Ministry asked the off-duty Dutch ambassador in Ankara, who was on leave, not to return “for a while.”

Criticizing European countries for attacking Turkey on early September 2017, Tayyip Erdoğan had said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cannot look him in the face anymore. Erdoğan’s remarks came during a press conference ahead of his visit to Kazakhstan at İstanbul Atatürk Airport’s government guest house. Blasting Europe for its obsession with him, his party and Turkey, Erdoğan warned EU countries about making a choice as to where they stand in relation to Turkey.

“Will it win you votes to attack Erdoğan and Turkey? How far are you going to go? What is going to happen at international meetings now? Would you like it to be the way it happened with the Dutch prime minister? He cannot look me in the face anymore, and I don’t even look at him. Look at his situation, he cannot even form a government,” said Erdoğan. Erdoğan also said Dutch Prime Minister Rutte had lost their friendship following the ban on Turkish ministers speaking in the Netherlands.

The relations between the two NATO allies were further strained upon Erdoğan’s remarks holding Dutch UN peacekeepers responsible for the massacre by Serb forces of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, in 1995. “We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there,” Erdoğan said, calling the Netherlands “Nazi remnants, fascists.”

Condemning Erdoğan’s remarks, Rutte said it was a “disgusting distortion of history” and added: “We will not lower ourselves to this level. It is totally unacceptable.”

However, after months of negotiations, the Dutch coalition government was formed on Oct. 26, 2017 and the new Dutch cabinet has opened up the opportunity to normalize bilateral relations between the two countries. An exchange of ambassadors between the two countries was expected to take place in the first weeks of the 2018 as a first step to restore bilateral relations.

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