Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prompted a fresh outcry in The Netherlands with a jibe about the Srebrenica massacre, warning of retaliation in a spiralling diplomatic crisis. Keeping an uncompromising tone in a tumultuous dispute that risks wrecking the entire Ankara-Brussels relationship, Erdogan yesterday said a ‘yes’ vote in a April 16 referendum on expanding his powers would be the best response to Turkey’s “enemies”.
He said the Dutch character was “broken” after its peacekeepers failed to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, comments described as “repugnant” by The Netherlands.
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Ankara had a day earlier announced it was suspending high-level relations after The Netherlands prevented two Turkish ministers from holding rallies to woo expatriate support ahead of the referendum.
The Dutch ambassador to Ankara — currently outside the country — has also been blocked from returning to his post.
Erdogan also late Monday sparked a new row with Germany by lashing out at Chancellor Angela Merkel for “supporting terrorists”.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the bloc’s Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn had urged Erdogan to show moderation, calling on Turkey to “refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation”.
But far from stepping back, Erdogan accused The Netherlands of “state terror” in preventing Turkish ministers from holding pro-‘yes’ rallies and said more sanctions were planned.
“We are going to work more” on measures against The Netherlands, he said. “These wrongs won’t be solved with a sorry, we have more things to do.”
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus later said Turkey’s retaliation could extend to economic sanctions against The Netherlands, a key trade and investment partner.
“We started with political sanctions and economic sanctions could come,” he told the CNN Turk channel.
Erdogan had previously angered The Netherlands by saying the authorities had behaved like the Nazis, who had occupied and bombed the country in World War II.
But on Tuesday he touched an arguably even rawer nerve, recalling Srebrenica, where Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to prevent an episode that remains a national trauma to this day.
“The Netherlands and the Dutch, we know them from the Srebrenica massacre,” he said.
“We know how much their morality, their character is broken from the 8,000 Bosnians that were massacred,” Erdogan said.
“We know this well. No one should give us a lesson in civilisation. Their history is dark but ours is clean.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called his claim a “repugnant historical falsehood” and said “Erdogan’s tone is getting more and more hysterical”.
The Financial,March 16,2017