Turkish minister warns: Europe headed for 'religion wars'

The remarks came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the migration agreement struck previous year between Turkey and the EU could be abolished in case the European Union does not grant a visa exemption to Turkish nationals.

With no end in sight to the tensions between Turkey and the European Union which have raised new doubts over Ankara's long-standing membership bid, the government has also threatened to walk away from a key migration deal.

A German government spokesman said on March 17 that there were no signs that the deal had been suspended by Ankara.

Following the Dutch ban on Turkish politicians holding rallies, Erdogan accused the Dutch of "Nazism and fascism" and blamed The Netherlands for allowing the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims, which took place in Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war when Srebrenica was under Dutch peacekeepers' watch.

Critics, however, have accused Turkey of blackmailing Europe over the refugee crisis. That mindset is taking Europe to the cliff. "Educate your children at better schools, make sure your family live in better areas, drive in the best cars, live in the best houses", said Mr Erdogan.

However, the reaction in Ankara - which has been locked in a deepening row with the Netherlands after the Dutch barred Turkish ministers from speaking to rallies of overseas Turks - was less sanguine.

Erdogan and other government figures have called the Dutch ministers "fascists" and "Nazis" in response with European Union leaders retaliating saying the allegations were "detached from reality".

In Greece, officials did not immediately react to Erdogan's comments. "They started a clash between the cross and the crescent, there is no other explanation". Turkey's EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Omer Celik stated during an interview with the A Haber news channel Wednesday that "the decision was influenced by the trend of Islamophobia (in Europe)".

He sent ministers to Europe to canvas for a yes vote at rallies of Turkish migrants, notably in the Netherlands and Germany, causing dismay in both countries.

Erdogan's reforms would scrap Turkey's parliamentary system and create an executive presidency, leading the Council of Europe to warn of a "degeneration... towards an authoritarian... regime", says the FT.

On Friday a Turkish pro-government newspaper depicted Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style moustache, labelling the German leader "She Hitler".

  • Leroy Wright