Row between Turkey and the Netherlands escalates after flight clearance for Turkish FM canceled

The Netherlands canceled the flight clearance for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s aircraft on Saturday shortly after Çavuşoğlu warned that Turkey would impose “harsh sanctions” on Holland if it were to take such a step.

Çavuşoğlu was scheduled to fly to Rotterdam on Saturday for a campaign rally, but the flight clearance for his airplane was canceled just hours before his flight, Turkish private broadcaster CNNTürk reported on Saturday.

Reuters quoted a Dutch official as saying that Turkey’s “sanctions threat had made [the] search for [a] reasonable solution impossible.”

Çavuşoğlu said during a live interview with CNNTürk on Saturday that Turkey would impose sanctions on the Netherlands if the country cancels clearance for his flight later in the day.

“Now there is the Netherlands. Dutch [nationalist politician Geert] Wilders acts like a Nazi. He threatens the foreign minister of the Turkish Republic with not letting the airplane take off. But I will go today,” said Çavuşoğlu.

“If the Netherlands cancels my flight clearance today, then we will impose huge sanctions,” he said, adding that the time had passed when foreign countries thought Turkey would not react to whatever they did.


Meanwhile, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to refuse Dutch aircraft the right to land in Turkey after the Netherlands on Saturday canceled the flight clearance for Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu’s airplane shortly after Çavuşoğlu warned that Turkey would impose “harsh sanctions” on Holland if it takes such a step.

“Don’t allow our foreign minister’s plane to go there as much as you want — let’s see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on. I am talking about diplomacy here, I am not talking about citizens’ travel. That is another issue, and we will assess that later on,” Erdoğan said during a speech in İstanbul’s Bağcılar district.

Erdoğan also accused the Netherlands of having no idea about politics or international diplomacy. “They are so timid, they are so cowardly. They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists,” said Erdoğan.


In hours, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reacted on Saturday that a remark by President Erdoğan comparing the Dutch to the Nazis was “way out of line.” “It’s a crazy remark, of course,” Rutte told journalists while campaigning for a March 15 election. “I understand they’re angry, but this, of course, was way out of line.”

In another controversial speech last week, Erdoğan also accused Germany of employing practices similar to those of the Nazi era by refusing to allow two Turkish ministers to deliver speeches in the country in support of a constitutional reform package that will be put to a public vote in April.

On Saturday, Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya has decided to go to Rotterdam by car despite the fact that the Netherlands canceled the flight clearance for Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu’s aircraft to land in the Netherlands. According to pro-government Turkish sources, Minister Kaya, who has been in Germany, will go to Rotterdam by car. So, Dutch police closed off the road in front of the Turkish consulate residence in Rotterdam. Programs in which Kaya had planned to participate were previously cancelled. 

Turkey’s relations with Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have been strained over these countries’ refusal to allow Turkish government officials to hold rallies there ahead of a public referendum in Turkey in April.

In the meantime, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that while the Netherlands and Turkey could search for “an acceptable solution,” Turkey was not respecting the rules relating to public gatherings.

“Many Dutch people with a Turkish background are authorized to vote in the referendum over the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government does not have any protest against gatherings in our country to inform them about it,” he said on Facebook.

“But these gatherings may not contribute to [easing] tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed,” Rutte added.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on a constitutional reform package which will introduce an executive presidency in the country if approved.

Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have canceled scheduled events to be attended by Turkish ministers in their own countries usually out of security concerns.

A large number of Turkish citizens or people of Turkish origin live in these countries, and Turkish citizens living abroad have the right to vote in elections and referenda. (SCF with March 11, 2017

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