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Riot Police Break Up Pro-Turkey Demonstration In Rotterdam

Demonstrators hold Turkish flags as they gather outside the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam, on March 11 after the Netherlands refused Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu permission to land for a rally.

Dutch riot police in Rotterdam moved in on horseback to break up a gathering of hundreds of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan near the Turkish consulate.

AFP correspondents on March 12 reported that mounted Dutch police, some backed by water cannon, began to forcefully disperse the protesters after several hours of peaceful but nervous demonstrations around the consulate.

The early morning charge capped a day of escalating tensions between Ankara and the Netherlands after Dutch authorities prevented two Turkish government ministers from attending rallies in support of a referendum planned next month that would give Erdogan increased presidential powers.

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on March 12 that Turkey will retaliate in the "harshest ways."

"This situation has been protested in the strongest manner by our side, and it has been conveyed to Dutch authorities that there will be retaliation in the harshest ways ... We will respond in kind to this unacceptable behavior," Yildirim said in a statement.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was forced to prevent the two Turkish ministers from campaigning in the Netherlands because Ankara had threatened sanctions against his government.

"We can never do business under this kind of blackmail," Rutte said on March 12.

Officials in the Netherlands, along with several other major European cities, have banned rallies by senior Turkish politicians to promote the referendum among members of Turkey's European diaspora.

Late on March 11, authorities in Rotterdam blocked Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from reaching the consulate to speak before the pro-Turkey demonstrators.

The mayor or Rotterdam said the minister was being escorted back to Germany, from where she had arrived by car.

Kaya said early March 12 on Twitter that she was being taken to the town of Nijmegen, near the Germany border.

"The whole world must take action against this fascist practice! Such a treatment against a woman minister cannot be accepted," she wrote.

Hours earlier, the Dutch government barred the aircraft of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from landing, saying it had withdrawn permission because of "risks to public order and security" caused by Cavusoglu's proposed visit to Rotterdam.

Erdogan Attacks 'Nazi Remants,' 'Fascists'

Erdogan reacted angrily to the blocking of the foreign minister's plane, threatening to respond in kind against Dutch diplomats and describing the Dutch as "Nazi remnants" and "fascists."

It is the second time in a week that Erdogan has used the word "Nazi" in criticism about one of Turkey's NATO allies, having accused Germany on March 5 of "Nazi practices" for withdrawing authorizations for Turkish campaign rallies.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters on March 11 that Erdogan had made "a crazy remark" that was "way out of line."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Rutte said he understood that Turkish officials are angry, and that the Dutch government "will do everything to keep the relations with Turkey as good as possible, as strong as possible."

"But, of course, today was not a good day in the Turkish-Dutch relations," Rutte said.

By late evening on March 11, officials from both Turkey and the Netherlands were being blocked from entering their own diplomatic buildings in each other's countries.

Later on March 11, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it does not want the Dutch ambassador to return to Ankara from his current leave "for some time."

Ministry officials said the Dutch Embassy and consulate in Ankara were closed off "due to security reasons" -- along with the Ankara residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d’affaires, and consul general.

In a statement, the ministry said: "It has been explained to our counterparts that this grave decision taken against Turkey and the Dutch Turkish community will cause serious problems diplomatically, politically, economically, and in other areas."

Turkish Minister Plans To Address March 12 Paris Rally

Cavusoglu's plane arrived late on March 11 in Paris, where he plans to speak at a March 12 rally.

Through the rallies, Turkish politicians want to attract the votes of the Turkish community in Europe ahead of the April 16 vote on whether to boost Erdogan's powers.

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have deteriorated in recent months, with Erdogan angry at criticism from EU members for waging a mass crackdown on opponents since he saw off a coup attempt last July.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and dpa
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