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Dutch minister quits after lying about Putin meeting
15 February 2018, 06:47 | Glen Norman
Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra on Tuesday evening handed in his resignation, saying it had been "the biggest mistake of my career" to lie about meeting the Russian president in 2006.
Dutch MPs rejected a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Mark Rutte, after the resignation of Foreign Minister Halbe Zeister.
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Rutte's four-party coalition has only a one-seat majority in the 150-seat lower house, but he sailed through the vote with 101 MPs voting against the motion, and only 43 in favour. It was brought by Gert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch right-wing Party of Freedom. "That's why I see no other option than to resign", said Zijlstra, who had held the job for less than four months.
Junior Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag, who led a United Nations mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapons in 2013-2014, will assume Zijlstra's responsibilities until a permanent replacement is found, a government official said. Several MPs were angry at Prime Minister Rutte that he did not act immediately after being informed of the case three weeks ago. The delay was due to Zijlstra's busy diary and the fact he was ill for a time, Rutte said. The lie, which cost the post of foreign minister, was uttered in 2016.
"Putin "wants to go back to a "Greater Russia" and his answer was that it included Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic States", Zijlstra had claimed". Yesterday, the minister apologized to the deputies for his lie that in 2006 he met with Putin.
Zijlstra he served as Minister of foreign Affairs of the Netherlands only the last four months, but he is a close ally of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and helped him previous year to form a bipartisan coalition.
"If you look at what Russian Federation has done in the past 10-15 years, the policy that they have followed, you must say that it's aimed at expansion", Rutte said during a debate in parliament, Reuters reports.
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