DUTCH MINISTER QUITS OVER LIE ABOUT PUTIN
AMSTERDAM: Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned on Tuesday after admitting that he had lied about attending a meeting in 2006 at which he said Russian President Vladimir Putin had outlined a strategy for building a greater Russia.
The incident embarrassed Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party coalition government, which had a precarious parliamentary majority of just one seat.
It risks undermining Dutch foreign policy at a time when diplomatic ties between the Netherlands and Russia hit a low point, largely over the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, allegedly by proRussian separatists.
Zijlstra, visibly emotional as he took the floor during a parliamentary debate convened to discuss his behaviour, said he decided to tender his resignation to the king because the situation risked harming the work of the Foreign Ministry.
Lawmakers grilled Rutte, who had defended Zijlstra despite knowing since late January that he had not met Putin.
They asked repeatedly why Rutte failed to inform Parliament during the three weeks before the affair went public.
Rutte acknowledged he had underestimated the impact the affair would have. He comfortably survived a no-confidence vote.
Zijlstra on Monday said he lied in 2016 when he said he attended a meeting a decade earlier at which Putin reportedly spoke of plans for regional expansion.