Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said he will go to Rotterdam on Saturday, despite an official ban on campaigning there for the upcoming Turkish referendum.
Cavusoglu on Saturday said that Turkish citizens living in the Netherlands were “being taken hostage” by the Dutch injunction on political rallies and speeches.
It is the latest in a series of bans across Europe, most of them in Germany, that prohibit Turkish leaders from campaigning to drum up support among Turkish expats on behalf of the country’s ruling party for an April referendum aimed at strengthening presidential powers in Turkey.
Speaking in an interview on CNN Turk television, Cavusoglu said that if the Netherlands refused to give him permission to fly to Rotterdam, Turkey would respond with harsh economic and political sanctions.
On Friday, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters that Cavusoglu was welcome, but that all public rallies and speeches had been cancelled.
“He has diplomatic immunity and everything, so we will treat him with respect, but we have other instruments to prohibit things happening in public spaces,” Aboutaleb said.
Cavusoglu’s delegation announced on Facebook that the gathering would instead be held at the private residence of the Turkish consul in Rotterdam. The invitation to the gathering asked visitors not to use their car horns or wave Turkish flags.
With the ban on campaign rallies, Rotterdam joined a growing list of European cities that block such gatherings for fear of unrest.
This week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of “Nazi practices” after Turkish leaders had been prevented from rallying expats in several Germany cities in support of the referendum.
Many in Europe worry that Erdogan is capitalising on post-coup fears to push through a more authoritarian system with few checks on his power.