Turkish FM to visit Rotterdam despite protests from Dutch government
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands on March 11 for a “meeting with citizens” campaign event ahead of the April 16 referendum, despite continued opposition to the visit from the Dutch government.
He is also due on March 12 to go to Switzerland for a similar rally in Zurich. The Swiss Foreign Ministry stated that Çavuşoğlu’s planned visit “does not currently pose a particularly high security threat” after a key regional authority expressed concerns. Çavuşoğlu may hold another rally in France after Switzerland.
In addition, the planned meetings of Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya in the Netherlands and Germany were also canceled March 9 due to “security reasons,” notified by the authorities.
Kaya was due to address meetings of the Turkish community in the Dutch towns of Hengelo, Enschede and Wehl, as well Germany’s Cologne.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on March 9 that they do not want Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu to hold rallies.
“Apart from arresting a Turkish minister on arrival in the Netherlands,” the Dutch government is giving the strongest possible hints to Ankara to not send its representatives to address any rallies on the upcoming Turkish referendum, Rutte said, adding that any planned weekend visit by the Turkish foreign minister could only stir trouble between the NATO allies.
“This is the most serious thing we can do, to tell the foreign affairs minister of a NATO ally: ‘We know you will come to the Netherlands: Don’t come,’” he said.
Rutte added that the local authorities would be unlikely to authorize any rally Çavuşoğlu would attend. “And if you still decide to come, you won’t have a chauffeur driven car, no escort, no support,” he said, adding that while “there are people who will say, ‘you have to arrest him at Schiphol,’ we will stop just short of that.”
Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders also said his government will not extend any assistance Çavuşoğlu if he goes ahead with plans for the visit.
“We will not participate in a visit by any Turkish government official who wants to conduct a political campaign for a referendum … We will not cooperate,” Koenders said in a statement issued late on March 9, adding that he informed Çavuşoğlu by phone earlier in the day.
“The Netherlands carries responsibility for the public order and safety of Dutch citizens, nobody else. Therefore the Netherlands does not want this [visit] to happen,” he also said.
Koenders told Çavuşoğlu that his country will “in no way facilitate” his visit and therefore “none of the usual support during a ministerial visit will be given,” the statement issued by The Hague added.
Rotterdam’s mayor said a day earlier that he would likely ban a rally by Çavuşoğlu on public order grounds due to tensions in the city’s Turkish community.
Minister defends ‘Nazi’ comments
Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu has defended comments from Ankara accusing Germany of “Nazi practices” in the canceling of meetings, saying no German politician was being called a “Nazi” but the bans “were reminiscent” of that era.
“No one has said [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel is a Nazi or [German Foreign Minister] Signar Gabriel is a Nazi,” he said late on March 9. “We have not called anyone a Nazi. Our president made a comparison in reference to certain practices … The trend in Europe at the moment reminds us of the pre-World War II era.”
Meanwhile, Turkish EU Minister Ömer Çelik will pay a visit to Strasbourg and meet EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland on March 13.