Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has chastised Turkey for threatening sanctions after its politicians were denied the opportunity to conduct political rallies in the Netherlands, sparking a bitter stand-off between the countries.
“We will never negotiate under threats by the Turkish government,” Rutte, who faces a parliamentary election on Wednesday, told the media in a press conference in Rotterdam.
The Turkish cabinet is expected to meet on Monday evening, to discuss potential sanctions against the European state, after its Foreign Ministry said the spat would produce “serious consequences in our relations in terms of diplomatic, political, economic and other aspects.”
Rutte said he would attempt to “de-escalate” the row, but conceded that “it takes two to tango.”
Simultaneously, he made no apology for the Netherlands' handling of the diplomatic crisis.
Last weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was denied landing permission ahead of a speech, and Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was not permitted to enter her country’s consulate in Rotterdam, and was escorted to the German border. The latter incident provoked high-profile protests by Turks in the Rotterdam city center on Saturday night.
Rutte, speaking in English, told the largely international press that the government “doesn’t want Turkish politicians to campaign here,” not least because it was “uncomfortable” with the nature of their campaign. The Turkish officials are advocating the approval in next month’s referendum of a strengthening of Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s presidential powers, which Rutte said was “pushing the country in the wrong direction.”
He added that Turkish politicians “tell us that 400,000 people of Turkish descent in the Netherlands are Turkish citizens, but they are Dutch citizens.” Rutte said that while the government contemplated allowing small-scale meetings with Turkish politicians inside consulates, it had security concerns about bigger rallies.
Erdogan said that restrictions to freedom of assembly by the Dutch authorities were tantamount to “Nazism” and branded the Netherlands, a “banana republic.”