An escalating dispute between Turkey and the Netherlands comes just days before the Dutch elections amid a campaign dominated by issues of identity. Hundreds of pro-Turkey protesters scuffled with police in Rotterdam on Sunday (12 March). The image of Turkish flag-waving protesters clashing with riot police may affect the outcome of the election. Although the situation may seem to play into the hands of Geert Wilders and his anti-immigrant platform, some say Prime Minister Mark Rutte may have bolstered his image as a tough leader who refuses to bow down to Turkish threats.

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People gather outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, to welcome the Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who travelled there by land, after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu's flight was barred from landing by the Dutch governmentYves Herman/Reuters
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Demonstrators protest outside the Turkish consulate in RotterdamYves Herman/Reuters
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A large image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan placed outside the Turkish consulate during protests in RotterdamDylan Martinez/Reuters

Rutte enraged Ankara by refusing to let Turkey's foreign minister land in the Netherlands on Saturday (11 March) and denying the country's family and social policies minister access to the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by calling the Dutch "Nazi remnants." The diplomatic row comes at a time when relations between Turkey and the European Union have been steadily worsening, especially in the wake of Erdogan's actions since last year's failed coup. More than 41,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 civil servants fired from their jobs.

Turkey summoned the Dutch envoy in Ankara on Monday (13 March) to complain about the actions of Rotterdam police against Turkish protesters over the weekend, foreign ministry sources said, as the row over Ankara's political campaigning abroad widened.

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Turkey's Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya (C) arrives at the Ataturk International airport in Istanbul, after being expelled from the Netherlands and escorted back to Germany by Dutch policeOzan Kose/AFP
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks in Istanbul on 12 March 2017Ozan Kose/AFP
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Demonstrators clash with riot police during running battles in the streets near the Turkish consulate in RotterdamDylan Martinez/Reuters
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Riot police use horses to remove demonstrators outside the Turkish consulate in RotterdamYves Herman/Reuters
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Riot police clash with demonstrators in the streets near the Turkish consulate in RotterdamDylan Martinez/Reuters
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Policemen stand by a black wreath erected by the Turkish association for International Peace and Friendship (Ubdder) at blockade put in place by the Dutch embassy, after the area was sealed off for 'security reasons' as a crisis escalated between Turkey and The NetherlandsAdem Altan/AFP

The protests, which were held in Rotterdam and Istanbul, came after the Netherlands joined other European countries in stopping Turkish politicians holding rallies, due to fears that tensions in Turkey might spill over into their expatriate communities. Demonstrations were also held outside the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul. The rallies are intended to drum up support among Turks living in Europe to back a referendum (16 April) to move the country from a parliamentary to a presidential republic, giving Erdogan more powers including appointing ministers, choosing judges and enacting laws.

With just days until the Dutch election, which will be held on 15 March, Rutte said he was doing everything to de-escalate the fall out. The Dutch government is fearful of any pro-Erdogan rallies sowing division within the Netherlands' Turkish population during already-heightened tensions in the country.

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Protestors wave Turkish national flags as they shout slogans during a demonstration late in front of the consulate of the Netherlands in IstanbulYasin Akgul/AFP
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People shout slogans during a protest in front of the Dutch Consulate in IstanbulOsman Orsal/Reuters
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People chant slogans in front of the Dutch Consulate in IstanbulChris McGrath/Getty Images
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People shout slogans during a protest in front of the Dutch Consulate in IstanbulOsman Orsal/Reuters
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Women protest in front of a window reflecting the Dutch Consulate in IstanbulChris McGrath/Getty Images
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A protester waves a Turkish national flag in front of the Dutch Consulate in IstanbulYasin Akgul/AFP
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A man looks at a newspapers bearing headlines concerning diplomatic tensions between Turkey and The Netherlands in IstanbulOzan Kose/AFP