- Category: News
- Created on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 13:09
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
Abdullah Gul was invited to mark the 400th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which began when Cornelis Haga was appointed ambassador to Constantinople in 1612.
However, the response sparked by Gul’s arrival has been anything but diplomatic.
Officially the visit is designed to promote trade and cultural links, with Gul also expected to press Turkey’s case for membership of the European Union.
Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders used his favourite media outlet, Twitter, to denounce his visitor in typically robust language for insulting Christians and Kurds.
On the left, meanwhile, Amnesty International has appealed to Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte to raise issues such as press freedom and the rights of gays and other minorities in Turkey.
On Wednesday Armenian, Kurdish and Assyrian groups staged a protest outside the Dutch Parliament, where Rutte and Gul were meeting, though only a handful of people turned out.
Rutte later gave a speech praising the Turkish approach in Syria, which he called ‘an important bridging function in the dialogue between the west and the Islamic world.’
He went on to cite the tulip, which was imported from Turkey, as a symbol of the longstanding relationship between the two countries.
Wilders appears to be especially piqued that Gul is having lunch with Queen Beatrix on Thursday in his home province of Limburg.
The appointment has caused tensions within the usually rigidly loyal PVV, as two of the party’s members have accepted invitations to join the queen and Gul despite Wilders’s stated opposition to the visit.
The Queen gave a speech on Monday night, when she received the Turkish prime minister at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, praising his country as ‘an inspiration and an example to many’. She is due to make a reciprocal visit to Turkey in June.
Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament for the left-liberal D66 party, called in De Volkskrant for Nato observers to oversee a series of trials of top military officers in Turkey. There are fears that evidence has been doctored and the court hearings fall short of standards of international justice.
She wrote: ‘In addition, an unknown number of journalists are in prison and the abuse of anti-terror laws has risen to an alarming level.’
Gul indulged in some early retaliation ahead of his visit in a forthright interview with De Volkskrant at the weekend, in which he compared attitudes towards his own nation within Europe with the events that led to the Second World War.
He said: ‘I see a rise of Islamophobia in Europe and I think it’s dangerous. Hostility towards a particular race or religion and xenophobia are diseases which can have very severe consequences.’