Netherlands officially withdraws ambassador to Turkey over referendum row

Netherlands officially withdraws ambassador to Turkey over referendum row
The Dutch Foreign Ministry has formally withdrawn its ambassador to Turkey after the diplomat was barred from the country following a dispute that began in March 2017.

"The Dutch government has decided to officially withdraw the Netherlands’ ambassador in Ankara, who has not had access to Turkey since March 2017," the ministry wrote in a statement. 

It also said that the ministry would not accept the appointment of a new Turkish ambassador. "As long as the Netherlands has no ambassador to Turkey, the Netherlands will also not issue permission for a new Turkish ambassador to take up duties in the Netherlands."

The statement added that the message has "just been conveyed to the Turkish charge d'affaires in The Hague," and that "this has brought a pause in the talks with Turkey."

The two sides fell out over the Netherlands' decision to block visas for Turkish officials campaigning for votes among expatriate Turks in the lead-up to the March 2017 constitutional referendum, which ultimately granted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers.

The country’s refusal to grant Turkey's foreign minister permission to land in March 2017 led to a mass rally outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul, prompting its closure.

Tensions between the two countries also intensified in August 2016, when the Turkish Consul General in the Netherlands was reported to have sent a letter advising the mayors of several Dutch towns how to fend off protests staged by opponents of the Turkish government. Bert Koenders, who was the Dutch foreign minister at the time, responded by asserting that protest activity in the Netherlands has "nothing to do with the Turkish government."

READ MORE: Turkey's Erdogan calls Netherlands 'rotten, terrorist state'

Turkey barred the Dutch ambassador from the country in March 2017, with President Erdogan stating at the time that the Netherlands must pay for its actions. "Sooner or later, they will pay for this, but we will rapidly bring the Netherlands to account by diplomatic means. We cannot let this go adrift,” he said.

Erdogan also referred to the Netherlands as being "very nervous and cowardly" after it refused to let the country's foreign minister enter the country. "They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists," he told a crowd of supporters at a rally in Istanbul. The Nazi remark prompted Prime Minister Mark Rutte to demand an apology from Ankara, stating that such comments were unacceptable.

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