Dutch PM Rutte seeks to de-escalate tension with Turkey

His remarks came amid an ongoing standoff between Turkey and the Netherlands after the Dutch government banned planned rallies of Turkish ministers ahead of the referendum.

The dispute worsened on Sunday as foreign ministers from each country traded barbs after Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Kaya was denied entry into her consulate and escorted to the border with Germany.

Speaking at a rally in Istanbul, Mr Erdogan said of the Dutch government: "They do not know politics or worldwide diplomacy ... these Nazi remnants, they are fascists", as the crowd booed in response.

The Dutch election was upended by a diplomatic standoff with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as a spiral of increasingly hostile rhetoric threatened to overshadow the final stretch of campaigning and influence voting.

Far-right politician Geert Wilders has accused Prime Minister Mark Rutte of prioritising the needs of asylum seekers and immigrants over the Dutch themselves in a bitter televised debate held two days before polls open in the Netherlands.

"I understand that they are angry but this is way out of line", he said.

The Turks have told the Dutch Ambassador (who was out of the country at the time) to not bother returning and have shuttered some of the Dutch embassies in their nation.

Rotterdam city authorities had refused to allow him to attend a meeting to rally support for Erdogan's plans for extended powers which will be put to a referendum next month.

The diplomatic row comes at a time when relations between Turkey and the European Union, of which the Netherlands is a member, have been steadily worsening, especially in the wake of Erdogan's actions since last year's failed coup.

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Rutte said he was anxious about the damage to the Netherlands' image in the world if the far right wins the election.

Turkish residents in the Netherlands waving Turkey's national flags take part in a gathering outside Turkey's consulate in Rotterdam on March 11, 2017.

The upcoming referendum in Turkey over constitutional changes that would usher in an executive presidency system is set to be a close-run contest, pushing the government to campaign more strongly than before outside Turkey.

President Erdogan reacted to the ban on his foreign minister by threatening to block Dutch flights.

Unless Wilders' party performs far beyond expectations, it is seen as highly unlikely that it will be involved in the next government - almost all other parties have said they will not form a coalition with the PVV.

This led to Mr. Erdoğan accusing the Dutch government of acting like "Nazis" and threatening harsh sanctions. The upshot may be to re-energize Wilders's campaign just as it appeared to be fading.

The decision by the Netherlands was driven by concerns that Wilders might win next week's election, according to Enes Bayrakli, an assistant professor of political science at the Turkish-German University in Istanbul.

The German government canceled a rally by a Turkish minister citing security reasons, as reported by NPR, and President Erdogan responded by saying the practices were "no different than the Nazi ones of the past".

  • Adam Floyd