Dutch diplomatic missions in Turkey sealed off as tensions escalate

The Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul have been sealed off for “security reasons”, Turkish foreign ministry sources said on Saturday, as tensions soar between Turkey and the Netherlands.

“Entry to and exit from the Dutch embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul have been closed for security reasons,” the sources said.

“The residences of the embassy’s charge d’affaires and the chief consul were also subjected to the same treatment,” the sources added.

The move comes after the Hague said it would refuse to let Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu land in the Netherlands for a rally to gather support for a referendum on boosting the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The ban infuriated Turkey and prompted Erdogan to call the Dutch authorities “the vestiges of Nazis.”

The Dutch decision to ban Cavusoglu from visiting and holding a rally in the port city of Rotterdam came after Germany and other European nations also blocked other campaign events.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters during a rally in Istanbul on March 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters during a rally in Istanbul on March 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE)

In Istanbul, around 100 people marched to protest the Dutch decision, with demonstrators placing a black wreath in front of the Dutch Consulate amid a heavy police presence.

Unlike in Germany, however, where a string of planned rallies were barred by local authorities, in the Netherlands it was the government that stepped in to block Cavusoglu’s visit.

“They are the vestiges of the Nazis, they are fascists,” Erdogan told an Istanbul rally Saturday, days after he angrily compared moves to block rallies in Germany to “Nazi practices”.

“Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey,” Erdogan said.

Turkey promised to avoid the flight ban and send another minister to Rotterdam “by land”.

Cavusoglu was however expected to address a rally Sunday in the eastern French city of Metz, a local official said, adding that the visit had been cleared by the French foreign ministry.

A French diplomatic source said the go-ahead was in line with the principle of freedom to hold public gatherings.

An AFP journalist saw a Turkish government plane land at Metz airport on Saturday evening. Cavusoglu’s spokesman said he had arrived in France.

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. More than 41,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 civil servants fired from their jobs.

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