Ministerial-level visit to thaw Turkey-Netherlands relations

Following Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s statement on fixing “cold relations” with Turkey over the weekend, both countries plan to take steps to heal relations, including a ministerial-level visit in the coming weeks, a pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah said.

The Netherlands and Turkey were involved in a diplomatic incident triggered by Turkish efforts to hold political rallies on Dutch territory. Subsequently, travel restrictions were placed by Dutch authorities on Turkish officials in March 2017, as they sought to promote the 'yes' campaign in the April 2017 Turkish constitutional referendum. Such foreign campaigning is illegal under Turkish law.

Diplomatic sources share that an exchange of ambassadors will take place in the first weeks of the 2018, as a first step in restoring bilateral relations. Accordingly, next week, the Foreign Ministry will ask for an agrément – the approval of a diplomatic representative by the state to which he or she is to be accredited – for a proposed new Turkish ambassador for The Hague.

Former Ambassador Sadık Arslan, asked to return to Ankara in June 2017. Since then, a chargé d'affaires has represented the Turkish Embassy in The Hague. In the meantime, Dutch Ambassador to Ankara, Cornelis van Rij, is expected to return back to Ankara following the confirmation of the new Turkish ambassador.

Sources also indicated that the Turkish side is expecting the Dutch Foreign Ministry to "express their distress" about the incidents that that took place in March 2017 so as to continue the restoration of bilateral relations.

A ministerial level visit from the Dutch side is expected to take place. Accordingly, Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, is scheduled to visit Ankara in the third week of Jan. 2018.

Relations between Turkey and the Netherlands soured prior to the Dutch general elections that took place on March 14.

Looking to attract votes from nationalists, the previous Dutch government placed a number of sanctions on Turkish politicians.

It declined a landing permit to a plane carrying Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting in Rotterdam.

Authorities also barred Turkish Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam. She was forced to remain inside her vehicle for hours before being sent to Germany.

The incidents drew severe criticism from Ankara, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry asking the off-duty Dutch ambassador in Ankara, who was on leave, not to return "for a while."

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