Turkey’s president has escalated the war of words in the diplomatic row with the Netherlands.
Furious over the Dutch and German government bans on his ministers from speaking to rallies of overseas Turks, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now held the Netherlands responsible for Europe’s worst mass killing since World War II.
He was referring to a Dutch battalion of UN peacekeepers who failed to stop the slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian war in 1995.
“My dear friends, we know the Netherlands and the Dutch people from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there. We know this very well,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
‘Repugnant’ and ‘hysterical’
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has hit back, telling Dutch television the Srebrenica jibe was a “repugnant historical falsehood”, accusing Erdogan of being “hysterical” and saying the Netherlands would never “sink to that level”.
A previous Dutch government resigned over the failure to prevent the 1995 atrocity. Just over 100 UN peacekeepers from the Netherlands did not stop a Bosnian Serb force commanded by General Ratko Mladic from entering the “safe haven”. Muslims were rounded up and executed. Bosnian Serbs were prosecuted at a UN tribunal and last year their wartime leader Radovan Karadjic was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 40 years in jail.
President Erdogan, who has also branded the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” and a “banana republic”, has dismissed EU calls for restraint in the row and said some European countries had become hostage to “racist and fascist parties”. He again accused Germany of siding with the Netherlands.
Earlier, in an interview on Turkish television, the Turkish leader stressed the Netherlands must atone for its actions and threatened to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ankara has suspended high-level diplomatic ties with the Dutch. Other sanctions include the closure of Turkish airspace to all Dutch diplomats but don’t appear to affect the travel of ordinary citizens.
There is evidence of support for Turkey’s hard line among some Istanbul residents.
“Sanctions are never enough. This was done against the people of Turkey so we should strongly show our feelings,” said one man.
“They should consider both countries’ diplomatic relations. Two countries must be mutually understanding. Our Turkish citizens in Netherlands are the ones paying the price,” added another.
A tale of two elections
As the row between the two NATO allies deepened, security was tightened outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul.
Both nations are in the midst of election campaigns. The Netherlands goes to the polls on Wednesday, with far-right leader Geert Wilders in the running to win the highest number of seats.
On the Dutch side, Prime Minister Mark Rutte earlier demanded an apology from Turkey over the comparisons with Nazi officials, saying such remarks were unacceptable.
Citing “risks to public order and security”, on Saturday the Dutch government prevented Turkish ministers from campaigning among expatriates living in the Netherlands. Riots followed as Dutch police and Turkish protesters collapsed.
Turkey wants to reach its millions of expatriates abroad – including an estimated 400,000 in the Netherlands – ahead of a controversial referendum which will extend Turkish presidential powers.
Since an attempted coup was foiled in Turkey last July, President Erdogan has been accused of increasing authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and many have been imprisoned.
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