Dutch MPs cancel Turkey visit over Wilders ban

Geert Wilders.
By our news staff

Dutch members of parliament have cancelled a scheduled visit to Turkey after the Turkish government refused to meet with the delegation if anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders was part of it.

When the matter was put to a vote in Dutch parliament on Wednesday, all parties opted to cancel the visit, which was scheduled for January, even though Turkish members of parliament and local social organisations had said they would meet with the delegation regardless.

"This was a unanimous decision. We deeply regret the fact that this will make an effective dialogue impossible, but if the Turkish government refuses to meet with us, the most essential parts of our schedule will not be able to go ahead," Harm Evert Waalkens, leader of the parliamentary delegation, said on Wednesday. One of the main reasons for the visit was Turkey's accession to the European Union.

A representative of the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs called the Dutch parliament's decision "unilateral."

"We have made our point clear," the spokesperson said. "We have not forbidden Wilders to visit, but we are unwilling to roll out the red carpet for him since the media attention he will garner by coming to Turkey will overshadow all other members of the delegation. But we are not praising God for the fact that he will not be coming. We will evaluate the decision of the Dutch parliament."

Wilders' response

Geert Wilders, the populist leader of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom, made it clear three weeks ago he hoped to join the parliamentary delegation. By then the schedule had already been decided upon.

Responding to the news, Wilders said that the Turkish goverment had proven his point that the country should not be allowed to join the European Union "in a million years." "Those who cherish democratic values meet with their opponents as well. This is a barbaric regime," Wilders said.

According to Wilders, the scheduled visit would have been reduced to a "touristic outing" if the delegation would not be allowed to meet with representatives of the Turkish government.

Wilders expressed satisfaction with the other political parties' refusal to "capitulate to the Turkish government." He also said the commotion surrounding the parliamentary visit had taken him by surprise. "I do not want to express my opinions from afar. That is not my style. I wanted to go there, but critical voices are not welcome in Turkey."

Turkey did not deny Wilders entry; it only refused to officially meet with a delegation that included Wilders. In February, Britain turned Wilders back when he arrived at Heathrow airport for a showing of his controversial anti-Islam movie Fitna at the invitation of a British member of parliament. The ban was later overturned, and Wilders was eventually allowed to visit the British parliament in October. Wilders is also persona non grata in Indonesia.

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