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[UPDATE] Netherlands cancels flight clearance for Turkish FM shortly after sanctions threat

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The Netherlands canceled the flight clearance for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s aircraft on Saturday shortly after Çavuşoğlu warned that Turkey would impose “harsh sanctions” on Holland if it were to take such a step.

Çavuşoğlu was scheduled to fly to Rotterdam on Saturday for a campaign rally, but the flight clearance for his airplane was canceled just hours before his flight, Turkish private broadcaster CNNTürk reported on Saturday.

Reuters quoted a Dutch official as saying that Turkey’s “sanctions threat had made [the] search for [a] reasonable solution impossible.”

Çavuşoğlu said during a live interview with CNNTürk on Saturday that Turkey would impose sanctions on the Netherlands if the country cancels clearance for his flight later in the day.

“Now there is the Netherlands. Dutch [nationalist politician Geert] Wilders acts like a Nazi. He threatens the foreign minister of the Turkish Republic with not letting the airplane take off. But I will go today,” said Çavuşoğlu.

“If the Netherlands cancels my flight clearance today, then we will impose huge sanctions,” he said, adding that the time had passed when foreign countries thought Turkey would not react to whatever they did.

Turkey’s relations with Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have been strained over these countries’ refusal to allow Turkish government officials to hold rallies there ahead of a public referendum in Turkey in April.

In the meantime, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that while the Netherlands and Turkey could search for “an acceptable solution,” Turkey was not respecting the rules relating to public gatherings.

“Many Dutch people with a Turkish background are authorized to vote in the referendum over the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government does not have any protest against gatherings in our country to inform them about it,” he said on Facebook.

“But these gatherings may not contribute to [easing] tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed,” Rutte added.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on a constitutional reform package which will introduce an executive presidency in the country if approved.

Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have canceled scheduled events to be attended by Turkish ministers in their own countries usually out of security concerns.

A large number of Turkish citizens or people of Turkish origin live in these countries, and Turkish citizens living abroad have the right to vote in elections and referenda.

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