Netherlands stops Turkish foreign minister's plane from landing as pro-Erdogan rallies cancelled across Europe

The Netherlands has withdrawn permission for a plane carrying Turkey’s foreign minister to land in the country ahead of a rally supporting expanded powers for Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish President responded by comparing the Dutch government to Nazis, saying: “These Nazis, these fascists, whose planes will never again land in Turkey.”

A spokesperson said the move was taken because of “risks to public order and security” caused by the proposed visit by Mevlut Cavusoglu to Rotterdam. 

The Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said that while the Netherlands and Turkey could search for “an acceptable solution”, Ankara was not respecting the rules relating to public gatherings.

“Many Dutch people with a Turkish background are authorised to vote in the referendum over the Turkish constitution,” he wrote on Facebook. 

“The Dutch government does not have any opposition to gatherings in our country to inform them about it.

“But these gatherings are not allowed to contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed,.”

Angela Merkel tells Turkey to stop comparing Germany to the Nazis

Mr Cavusoglu had already been barred from addressing a Turkish rally on the upcoming constitutional referendum by local authorities Rotterdam.

It was the latest of a series of prohibitions on campaigning in Europe by Turkish leaders drumming up support among the country’s expat voters, including several in Germany.

The foreign minister said he would visit Rotterdam regardless, accusing the government of effectively taking Turkish citizens hostage by banning the meeting.

“These people are not your captives,” he said in an interview with CNN Turk television.

Mr Cavusoglu had said if the Netherlands refused him permission to fly to Rotterdam, Turkey would respond with harsh economic and political sanctions.

Reflecting growing tensions between Turkey and the EU, he repeated threats to cancel agreements including last year’s deal to stem the flow of refugees to Greece if the bloc failed to implement promised visa liberalisation for Turks.

Mr Cavusoglu said Turkey would present a final text to the bloc on progress of the deal “and either it will all be cancelled, including the visa liberalisation and migrant deal, or it will all be implemented”.

At least four German local authorities have also withdrawn permission for pro-Erdogan campaign events and the Austrian government has also said allies of the Turkish President cannot campaign in the country.

They are targeting more than a million Turkish voters living in Europe who will be eligible to cast a ballot in the vote on 16 April.

The referendum could see Turkey’s parliamentary system replaced with an executive presidency using constitutional amendments that have alarmed human rights groups.

Germany’s refusals have sparked a diplomatic row seeing Angela Merkel’s government repeatedly compared to Nazis by Mr Erdogan and his ministers.

All cancellations have cited safety and administrative issues but the move has been linked to concern over the post-coup crackdown seeing thousands of people detained in Turkey, including a Die Welt journalist jailed on terror charges after reporting on government corruption.

A spokesman for the President lambasted the bans, claiming they revealed a “tragicomedy” on attitudes towards the Turkish government and interference in the referendum. 

Ibrahim Kalin said: “A huge anti-Turkey, anti-Erdogan attitude is being systematically produced and serviced to the world, especially through Germany.” 

Relations between Ankara and the EU have deteriorated significantly in the last year amid the arrest of thousands of people in purges and security crackdowns after an attempted coup in July.

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