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.


Iranians brace for harder times as US oil sanctions close in

Updated 3 min 14 sec ago
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Iranians brace for harder times as US oil sanctions close in

  • When the 2015 nuclear deal was struck, hopes were high that it would end the country’s years of crippling economic isolation
  • Hopes were shattered when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year and reimposed sanctions

TEHRAN: Iranians, already hard hit by punishing US economic sanctions, are bracing for more pain after Washington abolished waivers for some countries which had allowed them to buy oil from Iran.
“In the end the pressure (America) is putting out is on the people,” said a 28-year-old technical instructor in Iran.
“Some have crumbled, and those still standing will probably give up when things worsen,” he added, asking not to be named.
In 2015 when Iran struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, hopes were high that it would end the country’s years of crippling economic isolation.
Thousands even flooded the streets of the capital, Tehran, to celebrate and hail Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as he arrived back from tough negotiations in Vienna.
But those hopes were shattered when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year and reimposed sanctions.
Pressure has piled up ever since, with Washington saying Monday it would sanction all countries that buy Iranian oil, in a move meant to squeeze Iran’s main source of revenue down to zero.
Iran’s economy has been battered. Inflation has shot up, the country’s currency has plummeted and imports are now vastly more expensive.
“The country’s revenues will naturally reduce and maybe the rial will drop further,” the instructor told AFP.
Analysts have put Iran’s oil exports in March at around 1.9 million barrels a day, while the Central Bank had forecast revenue from oil sales in 2019 at around $10.57 billion.
Many of the country’s woes pre-date Trump and the sanctions, however, as it has struggled with a troubled banking system, a stifled private sector and the lack of foreign investment.

Yet life continues at Tehran’s Tajrish Bazaar, located north of the city.
On Tuesday people thronged the tight alleyways, drawn in by the tantalising smells of fresh vegetables and fruit as stall-owners shouted out prices, haggled with customers and hurriedly packed their goods.
But other parts of the bazaar selling non-essential goods such as pots, perfume and clothing were noticeably less busy.
“Have sanctions affected me? Which rock have you been hiding under all these years?” asked one irritated stall-owner, keeping an eye out for potential customers among the window-shoppers.
A 55-year-old housewife agreed.
“We have a limited wage, you see. (When sanctions came back) we were forced to spend what was meant for food and meat on the rent that went up,” she said.
Most people questioned by AFP asked to remain anonymous, and complained bitterly about inflation, saying they were especially pressured by growing housing and food prices.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran, overall inflation for the Iranian month of Farvardin (March 21-April 20) rose to 51.4 percent compared to the same month last year.
Food and services prices shot up by by 85 and 37 percent respectively over the same month.
This has caused “the class gap to really widen. There is only rich and poor now, nothing is left in between,” said the housewife.
“It will get worse. As ordinary citizens, we already expect prices to rise further” if oil exports reach zero, she added.
Iranians have also been forced to cut back on traveling, a tradition during the Nowruz, the Iranian new year which started on March 21, as prices grew out of many people’s reach.
“The situation is shocking,” the head of Tehran’s travel agencies association, Amir Pooyan Rafishad recently told ISNA news agency.
“Demand for trips, whether abroad or in Iran has dropped significantly.”

For Zarif, the US move to sanction Iran’s oil sales is another instance of what the Islamic Republic has repeatedly called “economic terrorism.”
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The foreign ministry denounced the sanctions as “illegal” and said Iran was in “constant talks with its international partners including the Europeans.”
Russia on Tuesday called the US tightening of sanctions an “aggressive and reckless” policy.
Other major sources of income for the Iranian economy are minerals, about $8 billion annually, and agricultural exports, at about $5 billion — but it also imports large quantities of both, offsetting much of that income.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, however, has said he believes the US will not be able to block Iran from selling its oil.
“America’s dream for bringing Iran’s oil exports to zero will not be realized,” he told lawmakers on Tuesday, ISNA reported.
“America and its allies have made a big mistake by politicizing oil and using it as a weapon,” he added. “Given the market’s circumstances, (it) will backfire on many.”