Turkey accuses Dutch of Srebrenica massacre

President Recep Erdogan steps up rhetoric and bars Dutch ambassador from returning to Ankara

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will run for re-election in votes next year
(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Turkey's political spat with the Netherlands deepened today after President Recep Erdogan accused the Dutch of the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II.

"We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there," he said in a televised speech.

His comments follow the news that diplomatic relations between the two countries had been suspended, with Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus saying the Dutch ambassador would be barred from returning to Ankara.

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The two Nato allies are "now locked in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis," says the BBC, just a day before voters in the Netherlands go to the polls "for a general election dominated by concerns about immigration and Islamic radicalism."

How did the row begin?

Last weekend, the Netherlands prevented a Turkish minister from campaigning in the country on extending Erdogan's presidential powers, the subject of a referendum in Turkey on 16 April, in which the "votes of Turkish citizens in EU countries will be crucial", says The Guardian.

The Netherlands is home to an estimated 400,000 Dutch Turks, half of whom are registered to vote in Turkey.

The decision, made over "security concerns", according to the Dutch, was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the rallies could stoke tensions.

A furious Turkey accused the Dutch of using "Nazi tactics", while Turkish officials have threatened to renege on an agreement with the EU and begin letting refugees in by land to Greece and Bulgaria, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Erdogan's decision to use the Srebrenica massacre as a further attack on the Netherlands shows Ankara does not intend to back down from the dispute, says The Guardian.

The massacre took place in July 1995, during the Bosnian War, when a lightly armed Dutch peacekeeping force was overrun by a Bosnian Serb militia, leading to thousands of Muslim men and boys being rounded up, executed and pushed into mass graves. The incident caused one Dutch government to resign, while Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of genocide by a United Nations tribunal last year.

What next?

Erdogan said he would not accept an apology from the Netherlands over the refusal to allow the minister to campaign and suggested that further action could be taken.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte demanded Ankara apologise for calling the Dutch "Nazi remnants" and warned: "If the Turks escalate, then so will we."

Marc Pierini, the EU's former envoy to Turkey, said he saw no immediate solution to the crisis: "The referendum outcome in Turkey is very tight and the leadership will do everything to ramp up the nationalist narrative to garner more votes," he said.

The Daily Mirror reports that "if passed, the April vote will create a powerful new executive run by Erdogan - but his critics say this is a huge attempted power grab".

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