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Tensions grow between Holland & Turkey before Dutch elections

Posted: 2:47 PM, Mar 12, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-12 14:51:29-04

THE NETHERLANDS (CNN) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday accused the Netherlands of “sacrificing Turkish-Dutch relations,” and warned, “you will pay the price.”

It was the latest in the ongoing escalation of tension between the two countries leading up to Dutch elections Wednesday. Erdogan was also critical of Germany last week, making  accusations about Nazism in Germany  as well as in the Netherlands.

Dutch elections: What you need to know

“I thought Nazism was over but I was wrong,” Erdogan said at the International Goodness Awards ceremony in Istanbul.

“What we saw in the last couple of days in Germany and Netherlands are the reflections of Islamophobia.”

Denmark cancels meeting with Turkey

Later Sunday, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen postponed a discussed visit by his Turkish counterpart.

“Under normal circumstances it would be a pleasure for me to greet Prime Minister (Binali) Yildirim in Copenhagen,” Rasmussen said. “But with the current rhetorical attacks by Turkey against the Netherlands, a new meeting cannot be seen isolated from that.”

The Danish government is observing developments in Turkey “with great concern as democratic principles are under considerable pressure,” he said.

“Normally this would not hinder a meeting, but rather make it even more relevant as it would present an opportunity to express our concerns directly,” Rasmussen said.

“However, the characterization of the Western democracies and the current rhetorical attacks against the Netherlands by Turkey means that a meeting right now would be interpreted as if Denmark is viewing developments in Turkey more mildly, which is not at all the case.”

The prime minister’s office said Danish representatives and Turkish officials had been discussing the possible meeting for several weeks. It would have been scheduled for later this month in Denmark.

Protests in the Netherlands and Turkey

On Saturday,  protests broke out in Rotterdam  and in the major Turkish cities of Ankara and Istanbul. Earlier, the Netherlands had blocked Turkey’s foreign minister from landing in the country to speak at a political rally.

Erdogan reacted angrily to the news, comparing the Dutch government to Nazis.

Speaking at the ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “They are timid and cowards. They are Nazi remnants and fascists.”

‘We will respond in the heaviest way’

Earlier, Erdogan had angered German Chancellor Angela Merkel by making similar remarks about Nazism in her country.

The Dutch government said the minister’s flight permit was revoked amid concerns over public order at an expected large gathering of Turkish expatriates.

“We protested that situation heavily and we told our Dutch counterparts that we will respond in the heaviest way,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement.

Turkish politicians want to speak in European cities with large numbers of expatriates in advance of an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish constitution.

The referendum would turn Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one, effectively consolidating the power of three legislative bodies into one executive branch under Erdogan.

Some 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.

But the authorities in several countries have blocked their plans.

The Dutch will vote Wednesday  in national elections  that have focused heavily on the issue of immigration from Muslim countries.

Far-right politician  Geert Wilders  praised the decision to bar the Turkish minister from speaking in Rotterdam, crediting the influence of his party, the Party For Freedom, or PVV, for the move.

CNN’s Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul, Elizabeth Roberts and Simon Cullen in London, and Hande Atay Alam in Atlanta contributed to this report