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Dutch Ban Turkish Official From Entry, Erdogan Hits Back With 'Nazi' Comment

Supporters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walk to the Dutch consulate in Istanbul on Saturday. Turkey and the Netherlands escalated their spat on Saturday as the Dutch withdrew landing permission for the Turkish foreign minister's plane.
Emrah Gurel
Supporters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walk to the Dutch consulate in Istanbul on Saturday. Turkey and the Netherlands escalated their spat on Saturday as the Dutch withdrew landing permission for the Turkish foreign minister's plane.

Updated at 9:25 a.m. ET Monday

Tensions ramped up quickly between Turkey and the Netherlands on Saturday, after the Dutch government not only disallowed Turkey's foreign minister from holding a public rally in the country, but revoked his flight permit to even land there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fumed about the Dutch government after the news, while speaking to a crowd in Istanbul.

"They are very nervous and cowardly. They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists," Erdogan said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

He also suggested that Turkey may bar Dutch diplomatic flights from landing in his country as retaliation.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded to journalists, while he campaigned on Saturday. The Netherlands will hold a national election on March 15.

"It's a crazy remark of course," Rutte said. "I understand they're angry, but this of course was way out of line."

The dust-up began because Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was planning to hold a rally for Turkish expatriates in support of Erdogan in Rotterdam, a city near the coast of southern Holland.

Turkey is holding a referendum vote in April on increasing the president's power, and many expatriates living throughout the European Union still have voting rights. There were about 75,000 Turkish nationals, not counting those with dual citizenship, living in the Netherlands as of 2015, according to Statistics Netherlands. However, the Dutch newspaper Trouw said some 250,000 Turkish people are eligible to vote.

Officials in Rotterdam wanted the Turkish foreign minister to meet with supporters in private because of potential unrest, reports Teri Schultz:

"But even before these negotiations were completed, the Dutch foreign ministry says, (Turkey) started threatening sanctions against the Netherlands, which made it impossible to find a compromise and thus landing rights for Cavusoglu's plane were withdrawn."

In response, Turkey's Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya decided to go to Rotterham by road from Germany. She said on Twitter that she was stopped about 100 feet from the Turkish consulate in Rotterham, and prevented from entering the building, according to Reuters.

And Saturday evening, the Dutch Embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul were closed off by Turkish authorities for security reasons, according to a Turkish foreign ministry official who spoke with the AP through customary anonymity.

Early Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement, "There will be a stronger reprisal against the unacceptable treatment" toward Turkish ministers, according to the AP. Yildirim added, "Our so-called European friends who speak of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights have failed their class.

Recently, a similar yet milder tension arose between Turkey and Germany as well.

The German government canceled a rally by a Turkish minister citing security reasons, as reported by NPR, and President Erdogan responded by saying the practices were "no different than the Nazi ones of the past."

Erdogan also appeared to threaten the Germans, saying, "If you don't let me in, or if you don't let me speak, I will make the whole world rise up."

In Germany, there are about 1.5 million Turkish expatriates that can vote on the April referendum.

If passed, the referendum would give the Turkish president the ability to impose a state of emergency and to intervene within the judicial system. The referendum would also set a schedule of elections that could allow Erdogan to stay in power until 2029. He first became leader of the country in 2002.

"Yes" voters argue that the new rules would modernize a Turkish constitution that was put in place after a military coup in 1982, reports NPR's Peter Kenyon. "No" supporters say it would give other branches of government very little power to counter the president.

"It [would be] a strong presidency, nothing like any president of the United States has ever experienced," one political scientist, Ersin Kalaycioglu, told Kenyon. "If this amendment carries, then for a while, Turkey will have a system with very little, if any, checks and balances, as far as many of the experts can see."

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Corrected: March 12, 2017 at 9:00 PM PDT
A previous version of this story mistakenly referred to the Dutch city of Rotterdam as Rotterham.
Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.