Dutch PM says he won’t apologize to Turkey
THE HAGUE - Agence France-PresseDutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has ruled out any apology for banning Turkish ministers from joining pro-Ankara rallies here, while adding that he hoped a diplomatic row could be defused.
“There’s absolutely no way excuses can be made; they should make excuses for what they did yesterday,” Rutte told reporters on March 12 as he campaigned ahead of a March 15 general election in the Netherlands.
The Dutch have been particularly angered after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likened them to Nazis for refusing to allow his ministers to attend a pro-government meeting in Rotterdam to drum up support for constitutional amendments that will go to a public vote on April 16.
“This country, as the mayor of Rotterdam pointed out yesterday, was bombed during World War II by the Nazis. It’s totally unacceptable to talk in this way,” Rutte said in The Hague.
The decision by Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya to defy repeated Dutch warnings not to come to the Netherlands had led to “havoc,” he said.
He urged Dutch citizens to “keep your cool. We have a fantastic society... and most Dutch people with a Turkish background are well-integrated.”
Tensions remained high, with Erdoğan warning on March 12 that the Netherlands would “pay a price” for its actions.
But Rutte said: “In the interest of our relations within the EU, with Turkey, it is now crucial to try and de-escalate events, not to add to this. Of course, if Turkey continues to talk in an inflammatory way about the Netherlands, we have to consider the next steps.”
Rutte stood by his government’s decision to expel Kaya, saying she had been an “undesirable” visitor.
And in an interview with the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, he hit out at Ankara for treating Dutch people with Turkish roots as Turkish citizens.
“These are Dutch citizens,” Rutte said, adding that, like Turkey, “the Netherlands is a proud country.”
The Netherlands is home to around 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and Ankara is keen to harness votes of the diaspora in Europe ahead of the April 16 referendum.
Dutch police moved in early on March 12 to break up protests, which erupted in Rotterdam over the incident, using water cannon, dogs and mounted horseback charges. Dutch media said 12 people had been detained and that one officer was hurt.