By Nimra Noor, International Business Editor
On Monday, February 5, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said it had formally withdrawn its ambassador to Turkey as talks between the two countries to fix a diplomatic struggle in 2017 over political campaigning were not resolved.
The ministry also said it will not “issue permission” for a new Turkish ambassador in the Netherlands, as long as the Netherlands has no ambassador in Ankara,, and that this incident “has brought a pause in the talks with Turkey.”
According to BBC, Netherlands had blocked Turkish ministers from speaking ahead of a constitutional referendum in March 2017 on giving Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan more power. Since then, the Dutch Ambassador to Ankara, Cornelis van Rij has been physically barred from Turkey.
However, relations between Turkey and the Netherlands had begun to alienate prior to the Dutch general elections on March 14. Intending to attract votes from nationalists, the previous Dutch government exerted a number of undemocratic actions against Turkish politicians. These hostile actions primarily included declining a landing permit to a plane carrying Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting in Rotterdam. The authorities also barred Family Minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam; she was forced to remain inside her vehicle for hours before being deported to Germany, as reported in Bloomberg. These incidents drew severe criticism from Ankara and the Foreign Ministry asked the off-duty Dutch ambassador in Ankara, who was on leave, not to return “for a while.”
After months of negotiations, the Dutch coalition government was formed on October 26. The absence of Bert Koenders, who was seen as the one responsible for the heightened tension, in the new Dutch cabinet has opened up the opportunity to normalize bilateral relations between the two countries.
An exchange of ambassadors between the two countries was expected to take place in the first weeks of the 2018 as a first step to restore bilateral relations.
“The formal withdrawal of the Dutch ambassador is a sign of how deep the rifts remain between Turkey and some European countries that have lambasted the Turkish government for arresting tens of thousands after the failed July 2016 coup, clamping down on free speech and lashing out at any western criticism,” says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 13th print edition.
Contact Nimra at