Turkey said on Monday it would suspend high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands after Dutch authorities prevented Turkish ministers from speaking at rallies of expatriate Turks, deepening the row between the two Nato allies.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, the government’s chief spokesman, also said Ankara might re-evaluate its deal with the European Union to halt the flow of migrants from Turkish shores to Europe.
“We are doing exactly what they did to us. We are not allowing planes carrying Dutch diplomats or envoys from landing in Turkey or using our airspace,” Kurtulmus told a news conference. “Those creating this crisis are responsible for fixing it.”
Erdogan threatened to take the Netherlands to the European Court of Human Rights over the ban on his ministers speaking at rallies in Dutch cities.
Erdogan, who is seeking support from Turks in a referendum on boosting his powers as president, had previously accused the Dutch government of acting like “Nazi remnants” for barring his ministers from addressing expatriate Turks to drum up votes.
The row marks another low point in relations between Turkey and Europe, further dimming Ankara’s prospects of joining the EU. It also comes as Turkey is caught up by security concerns over militant attacks and the war in neighbouring Syria.
“We will carry out whatever our diplomatic sanctions are … We will make sure the Netherlands are rapidly held accountable for this,” Erdogan said in comments broadcast live on television.
“They use international law whenever it suits them, they make excuses for it. We will go to the European Court of Human Rights as well. Our friends are currently making the necessary preparations.”
He did not say whether the government would also impose economic measures against the Netherlands. A source in Ankara had earlier said sanctions could affect cultural activities, and military and technological cooperation.
State media quoted EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik as saying Turkey should reconsider part of its deal to keep migrants out of the EU, comments likely to further anger Brussels.
Turkey also summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires on Monday to complain about the ban – imposed due to fears of unrest and distaste at what the Netherlands sees as an increasingly authoritarian tone from Erdogan – and the actions of police against Turkish protesters in Rotterdam over the weekend, foreign ministry sources said.
On Sunday, Dutch police used dogs and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.
“The Turkish community and our citizens were subject to bad treatment, with inhumane and humiliating methods used in disproportionate intervention against people exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” a statement attributed to ministry sources said.
The Dutch government barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam on Saturday and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her back to Germany.
Protests then erupted in Turkey and the Netherlands. Several European countries, including Holland, have stopped Turkish politicians holding rallies, due to fears that tensions in Turkeymight spill over into their expatriate communities.
Some 400,000 Turkish citizens live in the Netherlands and an estimated 1.5 million Turkish voters live in Germany.
The Dutch government said the visits were undesirable and it would not cooperate in their campaigning. According to polls, it is set to lose about half its seats in elections this week as the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders makes strong gains.
Monday was the third time the Dutch envoy had been called in since Saturday over the row. The Dutch ambassador is on leave and the Turkish foreign ministry says it does not want him back “for some time”.
The European Union’s executive arm said on Monday that the bloc would assess Turkey’s planned constitutional changes in light of the country’s status as a candidate EU membership, and called on Ankara to refrain from statements and actions that could further fuel the diplomatic row.
Dutch direct investment in Turkey amounts to $22 billion, making the Netherlands the biggest source of foreign investment with a share of 16 percent.
Ozgur Altug, chief economist at BGC Partners in Istanbul, said at this stage he did not foresee the row having serious short-term economic consequences.
“However, if the tension escalates and if countries start imposing sanctions against each other, it might have serious implications for the Turkish economy,” he said.
Turkish exports to the Netherlands totalled $3.6 billion in 2016, making it the tenth largest market for Turkish goods, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. Turkey imported $3 billion worth of Dutch goods in 2016.
Dutch visitors are important to Turkey’s tourism industry, which was hit hard in 2016 by security fears due to attacks by Islamic State and Kurdish militants. Some 900,000 Dutch people visited Turkey last year, down from 1.2 million a year earlier.
Ankara is seeking an official written apology for the treatment of its family minister and diplomats in Rotterdam, the Turkish foreign ministry sources also said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said it is Erdogan who should apologise for comparing the Netherlands to fascists and Nazis, adding that Turkey was acting “in a totally unacceptable, irresponsible manner”.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Turkey and the Netherlands to defuse the row.
At the weekend, Erdogan dubbed the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” and said “Nazism is still widespread in the West”, comments echoed in Turkish media on Monday.
“Nazi Dogs,” said a front-page headline incorporating a swastika in the pro-government Aksam newspaper, above a photo of a police dog biting the thigh of a man during Saturday night’s protest in Rotterdam.