Dutch riot police break up pro-Erdogan demonstration as Turkey vows retaliation

March 12, 2017 08:56

Authorities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have also banned Turkish campaign events in the escalating dispute.

Dutch riot police break up demonstration in Rotterdom in support of Turkish president Erdogan (Reuters)

Dutch police early on Sunday (March 12) used dogs and a water cannon to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who had gathered outside the Turkish Consulate to protest The Netherlands' decision to barr Turkish ministers from campaigning amongst Turkish emigres on the upcoming referendum to held in April

Several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons. They carried out charges on horseback, while officers advanced on foot with shields and armored vans as some demonstrators threw bottles and stones.

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The row over Ankara's political campaigning among Turkish emigres led President Tayyip Erdogan to brand its fellow NATO member a "Nazi remnant".

The dispute escalated into a major diplomatic incident in the evening, as Turkey's Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya,was prevented by police from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

Hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags gathered outside, demanding to see the minister. At one point a few thousand arrived to stage the protest.

Dutch police used dogs and water cannon early on Sunday to disperse the crowd, which threw bottles and stones. Several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. They carried out charges on horseback, while officers advanced on foot with shields and armored vans.

Less than a day after Dutch authorities prevented Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam, Turkey's family minister, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, said on Twitter she was being escorted back to Germany.

The Dutch government, which stands to lose heavily to the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders in elections next week, said it considered the visits undesirable and "the Netherlands could not cooperate in the public political campaigning of Turkish ministers in the Netherlands."

The government said it saw the potential to import divisions into its own Turkish minority, which has both pro- and anti-Erdogan camps. Dutch politicians across the spectrum said they supported Prime Minister Mark Rutte's decision to ban the visits.

Erdogan is looking to the large number of emigre Turks living in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, to help clinch victory next month in a referendum that would give the presidency sweeping new powers.

Following the incident Turkish authorities sealed off the Dutch embassy in Ankara, sources at Turkey's foreign ministry said on Saturday (March 11), as a row between the two countries over Turkish campaigning in Europe escalated.

Protesters gathered outside the embassy into the early hours of Sunday (March 12) and chanted slogans as police placed fences around the building.

"We are here to denounce the treatment dished out by Dutch police to our minister. We are here to defend our country and our people. We came here with these feelings," said protester Abdullah Daldiken.

Turkey also closed off the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d'affaires and consul general as tensions between the NATO partners escalated after the Dutch government barred Turkey's foreign minister from flying to Rotterdam.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who described the Dutch as "Nazi remnants" after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was turned away, has chafed at Western criticism of mass arrests carried out in the wake of a July coup attempt.

Turkey has vowed to retaliate in the "harshest ways" to Dutch moves to bar the flight of the Turkish foreign minister and prevent the family minister from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Sunday.

"This situation has been protested in the strongest manner by our side, and it has been conveyed to Dutch authorities that there will be retaliation in the harshest ways ... We will respond in kind to this unacceptable behavior," Yildirim said in a statement.

Authorities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have also banned Turkish campaign events in the escalating dispute.

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