Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on
Thursday said the EU has started a crusade
against Islam with a ruling on Islamic
headscarves and warned the Netherlands that
Ankara was no longer a friend, in a
worsening diplomatic crisis.
Turkey and the European Union are locked in
their most explosive row in years after key
EU members Germany and the Netherlands
blocked Turkish ministers from holding
rallies to win support for expanding
Erdogan's powers in a referendum.
Ankara has expressed dismay over the rise of
the anti-immigrant far-right in Europe but
on Wednesday showed no pleasure over the
election win of liberal Dutch Prime Minister
Mark Rutte, with the crisis showing no sign
Erdogan accused the EU's top court of
starting a "crusade" against Islam after a
ruling that allows European companies to ban
employees from wearing religious or
political symbols including the Islamic
/ Axel HEIMKEN The EU's top court has ruled
that European companies can ban employees
from wearing religious or political symbols
including the Islamic headscarf
"The European Union's court, the European
Court of Justice, my esteemed brothers, have
started a crusade struggle against the
(Muslim) crescent," Erdogan said in a
"Europe is swiftly rolling back to the days
before World War II," he added.
- 'Rutte same as Wilders' -
In Wednesday's elections, Dutch voters
returned Rutte's liberals to power seeing
off a challenge from the party of anti-Islam
MP Geert Wilders.
But with the acrimony that followed the
blocking by the Dutch of Turkish ministers
from holding political rallies still raging,
Ankara said it saw no difference between the
"Hey Rutte! You may have emerged as the
number one party in the election but you
must know that you have lost Turkey as your
friend," Erdogan said.
/ Robin van Lonkhuijsen, PHILIPPE HUGUEN
Prime Minister Mark Rutte (right) saw off
the challenge from the party of anti-Islam
MP Geert Wilders in the Dutch general
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
earlier said there was "no difference"
between the ruling Dutch liberals and the
Cavusoglu also predicted that "religious
wars" will start in Europe due to the rise
of the far right, saying the continent was
being taken "to the cliff".
- 'Unacceptable remarks' -
Erdogan has enflamed the row by repeatedly
accusing Dutch and German politicians of
acting like "Nazis". On Wednesday, he
claimed the "spirit of fascism" was rampant
Analysts say the Turkish strongman wants to
be seen as standing up strongly to Europe in
order to sweep up nationalist votes ahead of
the April 16 referendum on the
constitutional changes expanding his powers.
But his volcanic rhetoric has not gone down
well in the EU and has raised questions
about the continuation of Turkey's half
century long bid to join the bloc.
The French and German leaders on Thursday
condemned Erdogan's "unacceptable" remarks.
Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel
"consider comparisons with Nazism and
aggressive statements against Germany and
other member states unacceptable", they said
in a joint statement after speaking by
telephone, the French president's office
- 'Implement migrant deal' -
Turkey has also raised alarm in Brussels by
threatening to unilaterally scrap a March
2016 deal that has substantially reduced the
flow of migrants and refugees to the EU.
"We can stop it (the deal) unilaterally. We
have not yet informed our (EU) counterparts,
all of this is in our hands," Cavusoglu told
24 TV in an interview.
"From now on, we can say 'we will not apply
it and it will be over'," he added.
He lambasted the EU for failing to allow
Turks visa-free travel in return for the
deal, an incentive that had been promised to
Turkey if it fulfilled its side of the
The deal has been praised for preventing a
repeat of the surge of migrants into Europe
seen in 2015 that fanned the rise of the
The EU Commission said that it expected
Turkey to implement the accord.
"This is an engagement of mutual trust and
delivery and we expect that both sides will
comply with their commitments," spokesman
Margaritis Schinas told reporters.
Cavusoglu said Turkey was no longer
implementing a key part of the deal, whereby
it took back migrants who landed on the
Greek islands as a deterrent.