Turkey referendum: Dutch expel Erdogan’s minister amid protests

Media captionTurkey referendum: Protests as consulate in Rotterdam is blocked

Dutch riot police have used water cannons and horses to disperse protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, as the city expelled a Turkish minister.

More than 1,000 people had gathered outside the building as the diplomatic row between the two nations escalated.

Protesters were reportedly throwing bottles and mobbing police cars.

Turkey’s family minister was denied access to the consulate, and later escorted to the German border.

Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya had arrived by road on Saturday ahead of a rally planned to help harness the votes of Turks living in the Netherlands.

They will be voting in a referendum next month on whether to expand Mr Erdogan’s powers.

But when she arrived, Dutch authorities refused to allow her entry to the consulate, sparking a stream of angry tweets.

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Fatma Betul Kaya Sayan tweeted updates as she was escorted out of the country

Ms Kaya was then taken to the German border by police, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte confirmed early on Sunday morning.

In a Facebook post, Mr Rutte said attempts to find a “reasonable solution” to the countries’ differences had proved “impossible”, while dismissing Ms Kaya’s arrival in Rotterdam as “irresponsible”.

What is the row about?

Turkey is holding a referendum on 16 April on whether to turn from a parliamentary to a presidential republic, more akin to the United States.

If successful, it would give sweeping new powers to the president, allowing them to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree.

What’s more, the president alone would be able to announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament.

In order to get it passed, Mr Erdogan needs to get the votes of both those citizens living in, and out, of Turkey.

There are 5.5 million Turks living outside the country, with 1.4 million eligible voters in Germany alone – and the Yes campaign are keen to get them on side.

So a number of rallies have been planned for countries where large numbers of voters currently live, including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

However, Mr Erdogan’s supporters have found themselves blocked from holding these rallies.

Why are countries trying to prevent the rallies?

Many of the countries have cited security concerns as the official reason the rallies have been banned or moved.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said Mr Erdogan was not welcome to hold rallies as this could increase friction and hinder integration.

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Riot police broke it up in the early hours of Sunday morning

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands asked Turkey to desist as they feared “compromised public order and security”.

However, many European nations have also expressed deep disquiet about Turkey’s response to the July coup attempt and the country’s perceived slide towards authoritarianism under President Erdogan.

Germany in particular has been critical of the mass arrests and purges that followed – with nearly 100,000 civil servants removed from their posts.

What has Turkey’s response been?

Mr Erdogan has lashed out at Germany and the Netherlands, denouncing the Dutch government as “Nazi remnants and fascists”, while accusing Germany of “Nazi practices”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the Nazi jibe as “unacceptable”, while Mr Rutte dismissed it as a “crazy remark”.

But Mr Erdogan escalated the rhetoric after the Netherlands banned his foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country by plane by threatening to block Dutch flights.

He said: “Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on, let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey.”

Mr Cavusoglu also warned Turkey would impose heavy sanctions if his visit was blocked.

Ms Kaya’s arrival, by road, was seen as a further provocation by Turkey on the part of the Dutch – although Mr Rutte says his government remains “in favour” of speaking with Mr Erdogan and his colleagues to find a resolution.

Turkey referendum: Dutch expel Erdogan’s minister amid protests