Erdogan warns Netherlands will ‘pay price’ as crisis spirals

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 March 2017

Erdogan warns Netherlands will ‘pay price’ as crisis spirals

ISTANBUL:Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday warned the Netherlands it would pay a price for preventing top ministers from holding rallies ahead of a referendum on expanding his powers, as a crisis escalated with Turkey’s key EU partners.
Erdogan renewed hugely controversial accusations that the Netherlands — occupied by the Germans in World War II — was behaving like the Nazis in its treatment of Turkish ministers.
Analysts are predicting a tight outcome to the April 16 referendum and key Turkish ministers have planned major rallies in key EU cities to win votes from millions of Turks resident abroad.
But Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was expelled after being prevented from addressing a rally in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.
Also this weekend, The Hague refused to allow Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s plane to land ahead of a planned rally.
“Hey Holland! If you are sacrificing Turkish-Dutch relations for the sake of the elections on Wednesday, you will pay a price,” an angry Erdogan told a ceremony in Istanbul, referring to the March 15 election in Turkey’s NATO ally.
“They will learn what diplomacy is,” he growled, adding that what happened “cannot remain unanswered.”
Faced with an upsurge in support for the ultra-right, European governments have come under pressure to take a hard line on Erdogan who is accused by critics of authoritarianism.
Erdogan reaffirmed his accusations from Saturday that the Dutch behavior over the Turkish visits was “Nazism, fascism.”
Police clashed with pro-Erdogan demonstrators in the Netherlands overnight while in Istanbul on Sunday a man climbed onto the roof of the Dutch consulate and replaced the Dutch flag with a Turkish flag.
The flag was later taken down and Turkish officials insisted the consulate had not been entered from the outside and “consular officials” had hoisted the flag on their own initiative. The consulate declined to comment.
A Dutch foreign ministry spokeswoman told AFP that the situation “remains unclear” and the Netherlands had “protested to the Turkish authorities” over the incident.
The latest row came after NATO allies Turkey and Germany sparred over the cancelation of a series of referendum campaign events there.
“The West has clearly shown its true face in the last couple of days,” Erdogan said.
“What we have seen is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia,” he added.
The president indicated that he himself plans to travel to Europe for rallies, a move that could potentially create an even greater row.
Erdogan said: “I can go to any country I want if I have a diplomatic passport.”
Cavusoglu, meanwhile, is set to address a rally in the eastern French city of Metz on Sunday.
The French foreign ministry has cleared his visit, a French official said.
“I thank France. France was not deceived by such games,” Erdogan said.
Kaya was stopped just outside the Turkish consulate by Dutch police, and after several hours of negotiations escorted back to the German border.
Kaya was given a hero’s welcome by a crowd waving Turkish flags as she landed at Istanbul airport, saying she and her entourage were subjected to “rude and tough treatment.”
The controversy sparked clashes in Rotterdam where after several hours of calm demonstrations, police moved in early Sunday to disperse over 1,000 people gathered near the Turkish consulate, charging the crowd on horseback and using dogs to regain control.
Protesters hit back, throwing rocks at riot police, while hundreds of cars jammed the streets blaring their horns and revving their engines.
The Dutch government said Kaya was “irresponsible” for attempting to visit after being told she was not welcome and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said “it was undesirable that she was here.”
The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and Ankara is keen to harness votes of the diaspora in Europe ahead of the April 16 constitutional referendum on creating an executive presidency.
The Turkish government argues the changes would ensure stability and create more efficient governance, but opponents say it would lead to one-man rule and further inflame tensions in its diverse society.
Germany is home to 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey — the fourth-largest electoral base after the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
Some 250 Turks gathered outside the Dutch consulate in Duesseldorf in a spontaneous demonstration on Saturday night, German police said Sunday, adding that “there were no incidents.”

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

Updated 9 min 7 sec ago

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

  • Ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley
  • The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors

NEW DELHI: India has dispatched dozens of ministers to its portion of the Kashmir region to promote government projects and development following months of unrest in the area.

Last August New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposing a security crackdown and a communications blackout. It is India’s only Muslim-majority state and scrapping its semi-independence was the central government’s bid to integrate it fully with India and rein in militancy.

Prepaid mobile and Internet services have been restored although most of the valley remains without the Internet. Landline and post-paid mobile services were restored last month. 

The 36 ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley, with media reports saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the delegation “to spread the message of development among the people, not only in the urban areas but also in the villages of the valley.”

He was also reported as asking them to tell people about central government schemes that will have grassroot benefits.

The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors to the region.

Jammu-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo said the ministerial trip tied in with New Delhi’s development agenda.

“The ministers will interact with local-level representatives and stakeholders, and discuss the plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “Kashmir cannot go back to the old ways. There are no political issues that remain here, all have been sorted out by parliament by abolishing Article 370, division of the state and neutralization of separatist elements.”

But India’s opposition Congress party said the visit was an attempt to “mislead and misguide” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is a third attempt to mislead and misguide the people of the world, Jammu and Kashmir and India. They are coming here for a third time to tell lies,” Congress leader and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam, Nabi Azad, said.

Dr. Radha Kumar, from the Delhi Policy Group, said that a development agenda would not work without addressing the political issue.

“With all the unilateral decisions to abrogate the special status of the state, arresting all the mainstream leaders and putting the state in a lockdown, how are the government’s actions so far going to establish credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?” Kumar told Arab News. “I think this visit is more for international consumption than anything else.”

Dr. Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri intellectual and academic, called the visit a “clear sign” that New Delhi had no idea what to do.

“No matter how many ministers you send to Jammu and Kashmir it’s not going to alter the ground situation, it’s not going to address the issue of alienation,” he told Arab News. “What issues will they talk about with people? The government lost the people’s trust long ago.”

The Himalayan region has experienced turmoil and violence for decades. It is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Jammu-based Zafar Choudhary, a senior journalist and editor of The Dispatch newspaper, said Modi’s government was full of surprises. “There have never been so many surprises in Jammu and Kashmir as have come in the last two years,” he told Arab News. “There is no instance in the past when so many central ministers have visited a state in one go.”