Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said he will go to Rotterdam on Saturday, despite being banned by the port city’s mayor from campaigning there for a Turkish referendum.
Cavusoglu on Saturday said that Turkish citizens living in the Netherlands were “being taken hostage” by the Dutch ban on holding political rallies and speeches there.
The foreign minister’s aim is to drum up support among Turkish expats on behalf of the country’s ruling party for a referendum on strengthening presidential powers in Turkey.
Speaking in an interview on CNN Turk television, Cavusoglu said that if the Netherlands refused him permission to fly to Rotterdam, Turkey would respond with harsh economic and political sanctions.
On Friday, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters that Cavusoglu was welcome but that all public rallies and speeches had been cancelled.
“He has diplomatic immunity and everything so we will treat him with respect, but we have other instruments to prohibit things happening in public spaces,” Aboutaleb said.
Cavusoglu’s delegation announced on Facebook that the gathering would instead be held at the private residence of the Turkish consul in Rotterdam. The invitation to the gathering asked visitors not to use their car horns or wave Turkish flags.
With the ban on campaign rallies, Rotterdam joined a growing list of European cities that block such gatherings for fear of unrest.
This week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of “Nazi practices” after Turkish leaders had been prevented from rallying expats in several Germany cities in support of the referendum.
Many in Europe worry that Erdogan is capitalising on post-coup fears to push through a more authoritarian system with few checks on his power.
Source: Al Jazeera News