Erdogan hits out at Dutch over Srebrenica massacre

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that The Netherlands would face more retaliation from Ankara in a spiralling diplomatic crisis. (Reuters)
Updated 15 March 2017
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Erdogan hits out at Dutch over Srebrenica massacre

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that the Netherlands would face more retaliation from Ankara in a spiralling diplomatic crisis, as he made a new jibe against the country over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. 
In an uncompromising speech, Erdogan said a “yes” vote in an April 16 referendum on expanding his powers would be the best response to Turkey’s “enemies” in a dispute that risks wrecking the entire Ankara-Brussels relationship.
He also said the Dutch character had been “broken” after Netherlands peacekeepers had failed to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in comments described as “repugnant” by The Hague.
In a dramatic escalation after the Netherlands prevented two Turkish ministers from holding rallies ahead of the referendum, Ankara said it was suspending high-level relations with the Hague in a raft of diplomatic sanctions.
Erdogan also late Monday lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “supporting terrorists” as she backed the Netherlands in the increasingly acrimonious standoff, prompting an exasperated response from Berlin.
Far from stepping back, Erdogan accused the Netherlands of “state terror” in preventing Turkish ministers from holding pro-’yes’ rallies.
“We are going to work more” on measures against the Netherlands, said Erdogan.
“These wrongs will not be solved with a sorry, we have more things to do.”
Erdogan had previously angered the Netherlands by saying the authorities had behaved like the Nazis, who had occupied and bombed the country in the World War II.
Touching another raw nerve, he recalled the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, which Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to prevent in an episode that remains a national trauma to this day.
“The Netherlands and the Dutch, we know them from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how much their morality, their character is broken from the 8,000 Bosnians that were massacred,” Erdogan said.
“We know this well. No one should give us a lesson in civilization.”

‘Historical falsehood’
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called his claim a “repugnant historical falsehood.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn had called on Turkey to “refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation.”
But the Turkish Foreign Ministry hit back by saying: “The EU’s short-sighted statement has no value for our country.”
The ministry added: “Our EU counterparts apply democratic values, fundamental rights and freedoms selectively.”
Paying no heed to the EU’s warning, Erdogan had bluntly told the German chancellor on Turkish television late Monday: “Mrs Merkel, you are supporting terrorists.”
In an interview with A-Haber television, he accused Berlin of not responding to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to Kurdish militants and the failed coup in Turkey last year.
Merkel’s spokesman described the accusations as “absurd,” saying the chancellor had no intention of taking part in a “competition of provocations.”
Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Tuesday said Ankara was playing the role of the victim with its broadsides against NATO allies, as it seeks to “build solidarity” ahead of the referendum.

Meetings suspended
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a Cabinet meeting in Ankara that Turkey will not allow the Dutch ambassador to return until the Netherlands meets conditions over holding rallies.
Ambassador Kees Cornelis van Rij is currently outside of the country, and business is being handled by Dutch charge d’affaires.
Kurtulmus added: “Until the Netherlands compensates for what it has done, high-level relations and planned meetings at a ministerial and higher level have been suspended.”
The move by the Netherlands to block the rallies comes as Rutte prepares to face the far-right populist Geert Wilders in a general election on Wednesday.
Turkey is gearing up for a key April 16 poll to decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would create an executive presidency, boosting Erdogan’s powers.
In a bid to woo support, Turkish officials have sought to address to their citizens living in Europe, where a majority have traditionally supported the ruling party.
“Our nation on April 16 at the ballot box... will give the best answer to Turkey’s enemies,” Erdogan said.
In Germany, there are over 1.4 million Turkish citizens eligible to vote while there are nearly 250,000 in the Netherlands based on official figures from November 2015.


Holy Land churches cry foul over Israeli legislation on lands

Updated 18 June 2018
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Holy Land churches cry foul over Israeli legislation on lands

  • In their letter to Netanyahu, the Christian leaders slammed the “scandalous bill,” accusing its backers of an “unprecedented attack against the Christians of the Land.”
  • Large swathes of Jerusalem are owned by various churches, which in many cases reached long-term leasing agreements with the state.

JERUSALEM: Three major Holy Land churches implored Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to prevent the advancement of a draft bill they said was aimed at expropriating their lands.
Heads of the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches in Jerusalem also accused the Israeli authorities of failing to keep a committment made just a few months ago that brought an end to a major crisis between the sides.
In February, the Jerusalem municipality began enforcing tax collection on church property, while separately lawmakers in the parliament worked on advancing a law that would allow expropriation of church property.
The church leaders in protest closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site in Jerusalem where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, following which Israeli authorities froze both the tax measures and the legislation, committing to a dialogue with the Christians over the issues.
Rachel Azaria, a lawmaker with the centrist coalition party Kulanu, recently renewed work on a slightly revised bill that does not mention churches but would let the state expropriate the rights over lands sold by such bodies in Jerusalem, while offering compensation.
In their Monday letter to Netanyahu, the Christian leaders slammed the “scandalous bill,” accusing its backers of an “unprecedented attack against the Christians of the Land.”
“Certain elements in the government of Israel are still attempting to promote divisive, racist and subversive agendas, thereby undermining the Status Quo and targeting the Christian community on the basis of extraneous and populist considerations,” they said.
The church leaders also said that despite the Israeli committment to communicate on these issues via a specially appointed committee headed by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, “no dialogue whatsoever has taken place with us” since the end of February.
“We view such conduct, from those who promote the bill, as a flagrant violation and undermining of Your Excellency’s commitment and of the basic and fundamental freedom of worship,” the church leaders said.
They urged Netanyahu to swiftly “block the bill whose unilateral promotion will compel the Churches to reciprocate.”
Large swathes of Jerusalem are owned by various churches, which in many cases reached long-term leasing agreements with the state.
Residents living in homes on such lands fear the churches could sell the lands to private developers, who would be free to do as they wish with their property, including raising rents or razing existing structures.
Azaria said her bill did not single out churches, and was aimed at solving the problem of “thousands of Jerusalem residents who could lose their homes due to the demands of developers.”
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office while Hanegbi refused to comment.
A spokeswoman for Azaria told AFP the bill was coordinated with Netanyahu and Hanegbi.