The Netherlands withdraw ambassador to Turkey as ties sour

AFP | Monday 5 Feb 2018


File Photo: Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra (Reuters)


The Netherlands announced Monday it was withdrawing its ambassador from Turkey, and will refuse a new envoy from Ankara as diplomatic ties plunged to new lows.

Relations have deteriorated in recent months after Dutch officials barred two Turkish ministers from attending a rally in Rotterdam on the eve of March general elections here.

Despite recent high-level talks between the two countries, “we have not been able to agree on the way normalisation should take place,” Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said in a statement.

The Dutch government has therefore “decided to officially withdraw the Netherlands’ ambassador in Ankara, who has not had access to Turkey since March 2017,” the foreign ministry added.

“As long as the Netherlands has no ambassador to Turkey, the Netherlands will also not issue permission for a new Turkish ambassador to take up duties in the Netherlands.”

Ankara, however, insisted that “relations between Turkey and the Netherlands have not been broken off.”

While neither country had an ambassador “foreign ministry talks are going on, and I hope that our two countries will soon succeed in overcoming this problem,” said government spokesman Bekir Bozdag.

Relations between the two NATO allies have unravelled since the Netherlands expelled Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kayar in March.

The country had also barred another minister’s plane from landing as both Turkish politicians sought to attend a Rotterdam rally of Dutch-Turkish citizens in favour of last April’s Turkish referendum.

But Betul Sayan Kayar defied the Dutch government ban, arriving by car from Germany to press for the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be extended in the referendum.

Protests erupted in the port city as Dutch police stopped her addressing the rally, and gave her a motorcade escort out of the country.

Riot police had to move in to break up an angry demonstration using dogs, horses and water cannon, which added to political tensions just days before the Dutch general elections.

Furious Turkish officials in vain demanded an apology for the minister’s treatment from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

And the Dutch ambassador, who had been abroad at the time, was blocked from returning to Turkey.

Erdogan even accused the Dutch of behaving like “fascists” in their treatment of the Turkish ministers — comments which triggered anger in the Netherlands, occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II.

The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and the two countries have had diplomatic relations for some four centuries.

The Dutch NOS public broadcaster reported Monday that the recent talks had sought to find a “magic formula” to restore ties, under which neither side would have to apologise.

“This formula has clearly not been found, and the deterioration between the two countries has clearly gone further than we thought,” NOS added.

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