Halbe Zijlstra Dutch FM resigns after lying on Putin meeting. - Rahma Radio - Farin Cikin Al'umma
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Halbe Zijlstra Dutch FM resigns after lying on Putin meeting

New Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned Tuesday, after admitting he had lied about his presence at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I see no other option today than to hand in my resignation to his majesty the King,” a tearful Zijlstra told MPs in a hastily called session of parliament.

Zijlstra had only been in the post for four months, and the dramatic events came just hours before he was due to leave on an official trip to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“This is by far the biggest mistake I have made in my career,” he admitted to Dutch politicians in the lower house of parliament, watched by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Zijlstra is a member of Rutte’s Liberal VVD party, and his resignation is the first major scandal to shake the fragile four-party coalition cobbled together after record talks last year.

As he left the chamber he was given a hug by Rutte, who then came under fire from other MPs about how long he had known about his minister’s deception.

Zijlstra had been due to meet Lavrov on Wednesday to discuss among other things the 2014 downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels over Ukraine.

The tragedy in which all 298 people on board died, most of them Dutch, has soured ties, and led to accusations that Moscow is not being truthful about the events.

A Dutch foreign ministry official told AFP that the Moscow “meeting will not go ahead, for obvious reasons” and they would try to look “at a later date”.

Stepping down, Zijlstra told MPs Tuesday that the credibility of the country’s foreign minister must be “beyond doubt, both inside and outside of the country”.

His resignation came after he falsely claimed that he had attended a 2006 meeting in Putin’s dacha which included Jeroen van der Veer, Shell’s former chief executive.

“I have spoken about an incident of great importance, saying I was there in person, while that was not the case,” Zijlstra told MPs on Tuesday.
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