Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said March 12 that Turkey would retaliate against the Netherlands in the "harshest ways" after Turkish ministers were barred from campaigning with expatriates in the Dutch city of Rotterdam on constitutional amendments ahead of an April 16 Turkish referendum on the changes, Reuters reported. The dispute escalated into a diplomatic incident March 11, when police prevented Turkey's family minister from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside. Dutch police used dogs and water cannons March 12 to disperse the crowd. The events came less than a day after Dutch authorities prevented Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam. Turkey's family minister was escorted back to Germany and later returned to Istanbul.
The Dutch government, set to lose about half its seats in elections this week, according to polls, as the Euroskeptic party of Geert Wilders makes strong gains, said it considered the visits undesirable ahead of the vote. It also said it saw the potential to import divisions into its own Turkish minority Dutch politicians across the political spectrum said they supported Prime Minister Mark Rutte's decision to ban the visits. Turkish authorities sealed off the Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul and hundreds of people gathered there for protests at the Dutch action.