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Increasingly hysterical comments from Turkey's Erdogan are unacceptable: Netherlands PM

Erdogan's Srebrenica accusation 'unacceptable': Dutch PM
Erdogan's Srebrenica accusation 'unacceptable': Dutch PM

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte told CNBC on Tuesday that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was "totally off the mark" when he recently compared the Dutch to Nazis and had behaved in an "increasingly hysterical" manner.

Erdogan had denounced the Netherlands as "Nazi remnants" on Saturday after the Dutch administration withdrew its permission for Turkey's foreign minister and family affairs minister to attend rallies in the country. Turkey's president has since suspended diplomatic relations with Amsterdam.

"When something happens like last Saturday, we have to take a stance (and) we have to draw a line and say this is unacceptable," Rutte told CNBC as he campaigned to maintain his premiership ahead of the Dutch general election on Wednesday.

"We will never negotiate under the threat of sanctions."

Turkey is due to hold a referendum on April 16 on whether to extend the presidential powers available to Erdogan and the support from Turkish citizens based in other EU countries, such as the Netherlands, is viewed as critical by the president.

Therefore, the decision by Rutte's government to revoke its permission for Turkish officials to attend rallies in the Netherlands sparked a ferocious response from Ankara.

In a speech televised on Tuesday, Erdogan used the Srebrenica massacre, in which Dutch troops failed to prevent a mass execution, to further escalate the dispute between the two nations.

"I have to say that the President of Turkey today is in (an) increasingly hysterical way talking about the Netherlands. He has now made a historical and unwise remark about Srebrenica which is totally off the mark and which is totally untrue," Rutte added.

Increasingly unstable world

The Netherlands general election is perceived by many as a bellwether for Europe as a whole as Rutte seeks to hold off the challenge from far-right populist candidate, Geert Wilders.

Wilders has dominated the campaign trail with anti-European Union and anti-Islamic rhetoric. However, the latest opinion polls show that he is now neck and neck with the prime minister with just over 24 hours to go until citizens cast their votes.

The fragmented nature of the Dutch parliamentary system would appear to suggest that neither candidate is poised to secure a majority on Wednesday yet Rutte argued he has the experience to cobble together multiple parties and govern effectively.

"(The election campaign) has been about identity and about the economy but also how to keep this country safe and stable in an increasingly unstable world… which is my main task as Prime Minister," Rutte concluded.