Dutch-Turkish lesbian adoption row clouds Erdogan visit

A diplomatic row over a Turkish boy adopted by Dutch lesbian parents clouded a visit to the Netherlands by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at strengthening ties.

Erdogan met Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte to discuss economic and political cooperation, but the squabble over the fate of nine-year-old Yunus overshadowed talks.

The issue even threatened to eclipse a historic Kurdish rebel ceasefire announcement in Turkey after reported attempts by Ankara to reunite Yunus -- adopted by the lesbian couple as a baby, with his biological Turkish mother.

Erdogan said non-governmental organisations in the Netherlands should get involved to "ensure that children are placed within a situation they have been used to before", referring to foster children with an Islamic background.

The Turkish leader called for the issue to be taken up on ministerial level between Ankara and The Hague, but Rutte immediately shot down the suggestion.

"The placing of Dutch foster children is the sole responsibility of the Dutch government, of nobody else," Rutte said after talks with Erdogan earlier in the day which included the fracas around Yunus.

"For this reason I'm against having the issue taken up at a ministerial level," he said.

Rutte said the Netherlands have children's best interests at heart when placing them into foster care but it was not always possible to give them a home with a similar background.

Therefore "ultimately no distinction is made based on sexual orientation or religion", when children are placed out, Rutte said.

"It would be good, seen from a different angle, if there were more Islamic families in the Netherlands willing to take foster children from an Islamic background," he added.

Dutch newspapers reported last week that the lesbian couple had gone into hiding because of attempts in Turkey to have Yunus returned and reported disquiet in the Turkish community.

Dutch Deputy Premier Lodewijk Asscher on Friday called any interference by a "foreign power" based on religion or sexual orientation "presumptuous", saying it did not fit into beliefs held in the Netherlands.

Turkey has embarked on a campaign to retrieve children of Turkish immigrant families living in Europe who are fostered by foreigners, and instead place them in homes where their cultural identity can be preserved.

Turkey's Islamist-rooted government fears that children placed in Christian homes will forget their roots, and also disapproves of placements with same-sex couples.

Yunus, who is a Dutch citizen, was adopted by the Hague-based couple when he was four months old, but his biological mother told Dutch media she wanted him back, with reports saying she enlisted Ankara's support.

Dutch government officials however scrambled to downplay the row which threatened to overshadow other topics such as the conflict in Syria, human rights issues in Turkey and the announcement of the ceasefire between Ankara and Kurdish rebels.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told local news agency ANP the issue would not damage "very grown-up" Dutch-Turkish bilateral relations.

Even Yunus's biological mother joined efforts to calm the simmering row, saying Wednesday she "never had the intention of being against the adoptive parents' sexuality".

She had nevertheless previously been quoted as saying: "How would you feel if your child lived with lesbians?"

Erdogan's Dutch programme had been altered, cancelling a potentially volatile visit to the Islamic University in Rotterdam, where a Yunus demonstration was planned.

Erdogan cancelled a visit to a flower show that was supposed to replace the university visit because of ill health, national news agency ANP reported, although other meetings still went ahead.

Some 1,000 pro-Turkish protesters were expected to gather at Lelystad, northeast of Amsterdam on Friday, again to protest against the foster care system, spokeswoman Liesbeth van Willegen told AFP.

In The Hague on Thursday, police arrested three people after a soft-drink bottle was thrown at Erdogan's cavalcade as it travelled through the Dutch centre of government.

Diplomatic ties between the Netherlands and Turkey stretch back more than 400 years, and there are around 393,000 Dutch citizens of Turkish descent in the Netherlands.