The Netherlands foreign policy could be headed for jeopardy following discovery that the country’s foreign affairs minister was secretly engaging Russian president Vladmir Putin.
On Tuesday, the Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned 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 has embarrassed Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party coalition government, which has 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 have hit a low point, largely over the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists.
Zijlstra, visibly emotional as he took the floor during a parliamentary debate convened to discuss his behavior, said he had decided to tender his resignation to the king because the situation risked harming the work of the Foreign Ministry.
“We live in a country where the truth matters. That’s why I see no other option than to resign,” said Zijlstra, who had held the job for less than four months. “The office (of foreign minister) must be above all doubt, both at home and abroad.”