Turkey and Netherlands enjoyed more than 400 years of good relationship until March 2017, when the latter didn't let Turkish ministers hold rallies, causing a diplomatic crisis. Now, Dutch government officially withdraws its ambassador to Ankara.

Dutch police officers intervene as Turkish-origin citizens gather outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest the Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017.
Dutch police officers intervene as Turkish-origin citizens gather outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to protest the Dutch government after its ban on ministers, in Rotterdam, Netherlands on March 12, 2017. (AA)

Former Turkish president Abdullah Gul and former Queen of the Netherlands Beatrix met twice in three months back in 2012, to commemorate relations which were being built since 1612. What was celebrated by 600 activities only six years ago, seems to have been "paused" as the Dutch government announced its official withdrawal of its ambassador to Ankara on February 5. As long as Holland doesn’t have an ambassador in Turkey, it declared that it won’t issue the permission needed for the Turkish ambassador to resume its duties in the country. 

The announcement came after nearly one-year long talks between the Netherlands and Turkey on repairing the relationship which was damaged in March 2017. Since then, both countries haven't sent their ambassadors, and relations have been carried on by lower-level diplomats.

What happened in March 2017?

Foreign and Family Ministers Cavusoglu and Kaya wanted to address the Turkish community during a rally in the Netherlands in support of a presidential system, which referred to the referendum held in Turkey on April 16, 2017. 

The Dutch government declared that "it saw a potential to import divisions into its Turkish minority, which has both pro- and anti-presidential system camps." Many Dutch politicians said they supported Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s decision to ban visits by Turkish ministers.

Dutch authorities declared these rallies as a threat to public security and called off permission for Minister Cavusoglu to land in the country, and didn't let Minister Kaya go out of the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam. Later, they escorted her to Germany. The Dutch authorities' decision was followed by riots in Istanbul and Rotterdam.

Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said she was kept in a car for seven hours in Rotterdam
Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said she was kept in a car for seven hours in Rotterdam (AA)

Dutch police responded harshly to the riots in Rotterdam, and tried to disperse the Turkish people with dogs who wanted to see the minister.

This move was strongly condemned by the Turkish government, which decided to bar Dutch ambassador Kees Van Rij, who was on vacation outside of Turkey at the time, from entering Turkey. He has not been allowed to return to Turkey since then.

Turkey's ambassador to Hague, Sadik Arslan, was appointed to another position on June 1, 2017, and returned back to Ankara. Turkey has not appointed a new ambassador to Hague since then.

It was not only the Netherlands that prevented the Turkish minister from holding rallies for the referendum campaign. Germany was another such country. 

Turkey's President Erdogan blamed all European countries for their attitude towards Turkey and said, “I call on all international organisations in Europe and elsewhere to impose sanctions on the Netherlands. Has Europe said anything? No. Why? Because they don’t bite each other. The Netherlands is acting like a banana republic.” 

He also said that "Nazism was still widespread in the West”, which Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said were inflammatory remarks.

Turkey claims ties are not cut off

Two countries enjoyed good political relations and even signed “The Memorandum of Understanding on the Intensification of Relations between Turkey and the Netherlands and the Establishment of a Turkish-Dutch Conference" in 2008.

After the diplomatic incident and heavy reactions from both sides, they expressed a commitment to improving relations. "I think that it will be good if the relations [with Turkey] are fixed. Turkey is a NATO partner," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in late 2017.

"I always say it. Our aim is to minimise enemies and increase friends. We do not have any problems with Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Quite the opposite, the leaders there are my old friends," the Turkish president said in response to a question on recent remarks by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, encouraging positive relations with Turkey.

Despite efforts to be on the same page, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister tweeted on February 5, “talks do not yet offer sufficient perspective on a settlement. Therefore, the Netherlands officially withdraws its Ambassador to Turkey.”

Shortly after, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters, “This does not mean that diplomatic ties between Turkey and the Netherlands are cut off... There are charges d‘affaires (subordinate diplomats) carrying out the relations between the two countries.”

This has been the case since March 2017, but now it is official.

Turkey and the Netherlands have been important trade partners, with a trade volume amounting to $6.6 billion in 2016. More than 2,600 Dutch companies in Turkey had the largest share in foreign direct investment to Turkey between 2002 and 2016 worth $22 billion. At the same time nearly 25,000 Turkish entrepreneurs have been operating in the Netherlands. A huge part of the connection between these two countries is the Turkish diaspora in the Netherlands, which is made up of approximately 300,000 citizens.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies