The Hague: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he said the Dutch "character" was "broken" over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
"He (Erdogan) continues to escalate the situation," Rutte told Dutch news TV channel RTL Nieuws, adding "it's a repugnant historical falsehood", as a diplomatic row between The Hague and Ankara reached a new low point.
Speaking in Ankara, Erdogan touched a raw nerve with the Dutch when he recalled the mid-1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, where lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers were overrun by Bosnian Serb forces and failed to protect Muslim refugees.
Almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were then massacred and their bodies thrown in mass graves in the biggest incident of bloodshed on European soil since World War II.
The incident caused the Dutch government's resignation in 2002 after it finally admitted that it could have done more — and the incident remains a source of national soul-searching to this day.
"The Netherlands and the Dutch, we know them from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how much their morality, their character is broken from the 8,000 Bosnians that were massacred," Erdogan said.
"We know this well. No one should give us a lesson in civilisation," he added.
But Dutch premier Mark Rutte hit back saying: "Erdogan's tone is getting more and more hysterical, not only against The Netherlands, but also against Germany."
"We won't sink to that level and now we're being confronted with an idiotic fact," Rutte said.
"It's totally unacceptable," he said.
Turkey yesterday suspended top level talks with The Netherlands in a spiralling spat with The Hague and the EU after Turkish ministers were blocked from staging rallies to court the votes of expatriate Turks in a referendum to give Erdogan greater powers.
Ankara was especially angered by the acts of the Dutch days ahead of general elections in the country when authorities prevented the foreign minister's plane from landing and expelled the family minister over the weekend.