Turkey appoints controversial gov’t figure as ambassador to Netherlands

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Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has appointed Şaban Dişli, one of the founders of the party who had faced bribery allegations in the past, as its ambassador to the Netherlands.

In a statement on Friday Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Turkey and the Netherlands on Friday reciprocally appointed ambassadors as part of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.

“In this framework, Şaban Dişli has been appointed as Turkey’s Ambassador to The Hague with the approval of the esteemed President,” the statement said, adding that a visit to be paid by the Dutch foreign minister to Turkey in October would be the next step aimed at normalizing relations.

The two governments fell out over the Netherlands’ decision to bar Turkish officials from campaigning among the Turkish diaspora before Turkey’s April 2017 constitutional referendum, when the Netherlands was holding its own elections.

In 2008 Dişli, who was the party’s deputy chairman at the time, resigned from his post due to claims by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu suggesting that Dişli demanded $1 million in bribes from a company in exchange for changing the zoning status of land in İstanbul’s Silivri district.

Dişli denied the allegations as he resigned.

Last year Dişli was appointed as an advisor to the AKP chairman but had to resign after his brother, former Maj. Gen. Mehmet Dişli, was arrested for allegedly taking part in a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Mehmet Dişli is standing trial as part of the Akıncı Airbase phase of the coup attempt, which claimed the lives of 249 people and injured a thousand others.

In addition, a summary of proceedings was drafted against Şaban Dişli in May that sought to remove his parliamentary immunity on the grounds that he threatened AKP Sakarya provincial branch deputy president Yusuf Erturan.

The crisis erupted between Ankara and The Hague in March 2017 when the Netherlands cancelled the flight clearance for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s airplane shortly after Çavuşoğlu warned that Turkey would impose “harsh sanctions” on the Netherlands if it were to take such a step.

Çavuşoğlu was scheduled to fly to Rotterdam for a campaign rally for a referendum in Turkey in April 2017.

The crisis escalated when then-Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya was expelled from the Netherlands after she insisted on going to the residence of the Turkish consul general in Rotterdam.

The Turkish government at the time announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands, including halting high-level political discussions between the two countries and closing Turkish airspace to Dutch diplomats. Other sanctions barred the Dutch ambassador’s entry back into Turkey, and a Dutch-Turkish friendship group in the Turkish Parliament was dissolved.

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