Turkey says no difference between Dutch liberals and 'fascist' Wilders

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a speech in the French city of Metz on March 12, 2017

Turkey said on Thursday there was "no difference" between the ruling Dutch liberals and the "fascist" anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte defeated the far-right in a closely-watched election.

With Turkey locked in an explosive crisis with the European Union that erupted in the run-up to the polls, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu predicted that "religious wars" will start in Europe.

"You look at the social democrats and the fascist Wilders, there is no difference, they have the same mentality," Cavusoglu said, quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu, referring to the ruling Liberals who won the most seats against Wilders and his Freedom Party in Wednesday's election.

Turkey and Europe have been locked in a diplomatic spat after The Netherlands and Germany blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a 'yes' vote in next month's referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

While Erdogan has repeatedly accused the countries of acting like "Nazis", the European Union has warned Ankara to show moderation in its language.

"Where are you going, where are you taking Europe?" asked Cavusoglu, addressing Europe's leaders.

"You have begun to disintegrate Europe and take Europe to the cliff. Soon religious wars will begin in Europe," Cavusoglu warned.

"Because they were of different faiths, they killed each other for 100 years," he said, without elaborating further.

"But they learned a lesson from this and the European Union, the Council of Europe was set up," he said. "Europe is going back to those old days."

Cavusoglu questioned The Netherlands' understanding of "humanity, democracy and freedom", insisting Turkey would not remain passive against such actions.

"You will see in the coming period, we will take further steps," the minister added without giving further details.

The Istanbul municpality also announced it would break off its sister city protocol with the Dutch port city of Rotterdam -- in place since 2005 -- after Erdogan had called for the move.

Turkish ministers had wanted to hold pre-referendum rallies in Rotterdam but were blocked from doing so by Dutch police, prompting clashes in the city.

On April 16, Turks will decide whether to approve constitutional changes to create an executive presidency, which the government insists will be like the system in France or the United States but critics say it will lead to one-man rule.

On Wednesday, Cavusoglu threatened to unilaterally scrap a March 2016 deal that has substantially reduced the flow of migrants and refugees to the EU.