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Turkey Hits Back Against Netherlands, EU; Mulls Ending Migrant Agreement

Dutch Turkish 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 to gather support for a referendum on boosting the Turkish president's powers.

Turkey says it is halting all high-level political discussions with the Netherlands and that Ankara’s agreement with the European Union to help hold back a flood of Asian migrants has ended, as far as Turkey is concerned.

The announcement late on March 13 by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli came amid a growing dispute with the Netherlands and Germany over their refusal to allow Turkish government ministers to stage political rallies in their territory.

Canikli said steps would be taken to reevaluate Ankara’s agreement with Brussels to prevent refugees and migrants from crossing into the EU after they transit Turkey.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 13 continued to make inflammatory statements in the standoff against Ankara’s EU allies in the NATO alliance, accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of "supporting terrorists."

Erdogan twice during the weekend accused the Netherlands of behaving like Nazis, sparking outrage in a country that was bombed and occupied by Nazi German forces during World War II.

Ankara has been angered by the refusal of some EU countries to let Turkish ministers speak at political rallies abroad. They are seeking a "yes" vote from millions of Turkish expatriates in an April 16 referendum on whether to broadly expand Erdogan’s presidential powers.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn on March 13 called on Ankara to "refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation."

But Erdogan in an interview with A-Haber television on March 13 accused Merkel of failing to respond to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on what Turkey says are terrorist suspects, including suspects linked by Turkish authorities to Kurdish militants and a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.

In further criticism of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Erdogan told A-Haber TV that Dutch leaders "haven’t understood democracy."

Turkey's Foreign Ministry on March 13 formally protested the treatment of a Turkish minister who was escorted out of the Netherlands after trying to attend a weekend referendum rally.

Ankara also objected to what it called a "disproportionate" use of force by Dutch authorities against Turkish demonstrators at a protest afterward.

Late on March 13, the government in Ankara announced that it will not allow the Dutch ambassador to return to Turkey from his current leave abroad.

Deputy Prime Minister Canikli also said the government will advise Turkey’s parliament to withdraw from the so-called Dutch-Turkish friendship group.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and A-Haber TV
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