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Turkey slams EU officials in row over Netherlands campaigning

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The Turkish referendum next month would expand Mr Erdogan’s powers

The Turkish foreign ministry has rejected a call by top EU officials to show restraint in a row with the Netherlands over political campaigning.

It described as “worthless” an appeal by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

The row erupted after the Dutch barred Turkish ministers from campaigning among expatriates for a referendum.

The referendum would controversially boost the Turkish president’s powers.

In response to the Dutch move, Turkey barred the Dutch ambassador from returning to Ankara and suspended high-level political talks, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Dutch of using Nazi tactics.

The Dutch government cited “risks to public order and security” as reasons for blocking the Turkish rallies, which have also been prevented in fellow EU states Germany and Austria, but not France.

Voters in the Netherlands go to the polls on Wednesday for a general election dominated by concerns about immigration and Islamic radicalism.

Relations between the EU and Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country regarded as crucial to tackling Europe’s migrant crisis, have been long been strained.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said it was “grave” of the EU to stand by the Netherlands.

On Monday, Ms Mogherini and Mr Hahn had called on Turkey to “refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also rallied to the Netherlands, condemning the Nazi analogies made by Mr Erdogan as “completely misguided”.

The Dutch foreign ministry has urged citizens in Turkey to take care.

However, responding to the diplomatic sanctions announced by Turkey, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said they were “not too bad”.

How did the row come about?

Media captionA look at how tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands unfolded

Rallies were called to encourage Turkey’s large expatriate communities in the EU to vote Yes in a referendum on 16 April on expanding the president’s powers. The plans were criticised by senior EU officials on Monday.

Two Turkish ministers were barred from addressing crowds in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, with one of them escorted to the German border after entering the Netherlands by land.

Police used dogs and water cannon against protesters waving Turkish flags in the city.

How sharp were the exchanges?

Media captionPresident Erdogan makes Nazi Germany taunt

Mr Erdogan likened the Netherlands to “a banana republic”, demanded international organisations impose sanctions on the country and accused countries in the West of “Islamophobia”.

“I have said that I had thought that Nazism was over, but I was wrong,” he said.

Turkish officials have also suggested reconsidering part of its deal with the EU to stem the flow of migrants, namely Turkey’s efforts to prevent them crossing by land to Greece and Bulgaria.

Mr Rutte said Mr Erdogan’s comment that the Dutch were “Nazi remnants” was “unacceptable”, and demanded an apology.

Responding to Turkish calls for sanctions, he said the Netherlands would “never negotiate under threat”.

The Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940 and occupied right up until the final days of World War Two in Europe, in May 1945. Rotterdam was devastated by German bombing during the invasion.


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