Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are seen at the start of a meeting in Catshuis residence in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday March 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Toussaint Kluiters, Pool)
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte bluntly rejected an appeal Thursday by his Turkish counterpart for ministerial-level talks over the case of a boy taken from his Turkish parents in the Netherlands and placed in the foster care of a lesbian couple.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was visiting the Netherlands to boost trade and mark four centuries of diplomatic relations between the two countries. But the spat over the 9-year-old boy, identified only as Yunus, overshadowed the day-long visit.
Erdogan said placing a child from a Muslim background with lesbians could breach his nation’s “moral and religious values.” He said talks between ministries in the two countries that oversee child care could “prevent this kind of problem so the strong relationship between our countries is not weakened.”
But Rutte told reporters: “The placing of Dutch foster children is the responsibility of the Netherlands alone. Nobody else.”
Yunus was removed from his biological parents’ care in the Netherlands while still a baby, and eventually placed in the care of the lesbian couple, who live in The Hague.
His biological mother, Nurgul Azeroglu, appeared on a Turkish television program earlier this month and called on Erdogan to intervene in the case. She acknowledged having accidentally dropped the child from a poorly fastened carrying bag once — apparently part of the reason he was removed from her care.
Turkey is a Muslim-majority state with a largely secular political history, but many Turks nonetheless are conservative on issues such as homosexuality.
Erdogan’s political party has Islamist roots, and prominent Turkish politicians have recently spoken out against children of Turkish ancestry being raised by Christians, homosexuals, or others whose values are rejected by their biological parents.
Rutte said the Netherlands tries to “take into account as much as possible the cultural and religious background of the child, but it is simply not always possible due to lack of families. It would be good if there were more families … from other communities, from the Islamic community, prepared to take on foster children.”
Yunus and his foster parents have gone into hiding since they became the focus of protests. One earlier Thursday in Rotterdam drew 150 people who peacefully demonstrated against the child’s placement with the lesbians.
Officials said there was no specific threat against Yunus or the couple, but he has been kept home from school as a precaution since the interview with his mother aired.
The Hague Youth Services Agency’s spokeswoman Tanja van Dijk told national broadcaster NOS last week that it was decided that Yunus and his foster parents should “stay at another address for a time, partly in connection with the visit of the prime minister.”