Dutch FM rejects ambassador‘s terrorist comment

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Netherlands Foreign Minister Bert Koenders disavowed a comment by the departing Dutch ambassador to Hungary equating the mindset of Hungaryʼs government to that of terrorists, stated Hungarian government website kormany.hu. However, he was also cited in reports as indicating that other criticisms by the ambassador do reflect concerns of his government.

In an interview with liberal weekly news magazine 168 Óra, published in Hungarian, departing Dutch Ambassador to Hungary Gajus Scheltema voiced many strong criticisms of Hungary. One comment in particular - in which he suggested that terrorists “create enemies by the same principle as the Hungarian government” - prompted Hungaryʼs government to sever diplomatic ties with the Netherlands at the ambassadorial level.

“The Dutch Foreign Minister has informed Hungary’s chief diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó, that his government disassociates itself from the statement by the outgoing Ambassador to Budapest equating terrorists and the Hungarian Government,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s press chief informed Hungarian news agency MTI on Friday, as cited by kormany.hu.

Tamás Menczer said that Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders called Szijjártó by telephone and made it clear that the statement by the outgoing ambassador was not the standpoint of the Dutch government. Koenders said the Dutch government does not believe that there is any relationship between terrorism and the activities of the Hungarian government, the press chief said.

English-language Dutch news website dutchnews.nl also quoted Koenders as specifically distancing himself from the ambassador’s comment regarding terrorism.

“Of course, we can in no way say or give the impression that the Hungarian government has the same methods as terrorists,” Koenders told the Dutch press. “That is simply not good and I distance myself from that.”

At the same time, Koenders was cited by dutchnews.nl as saying that the Netherlands does have some criticisms of Hungary, which – despite EU agreements – will not accept refugees and has very strict regulations for NGOs. (Both these issues were addressed critically by Scheltema in the 168 Óra interview.)

“But this,” added Koenders, “has nothing to do with the methods of ISIS.”

In an interview with pro-government Hungarian daily Magyar Hírlap today, Szijjártó appeared to acknowledge that some differences exist between the viewpoints of the Hungarian and Dutch governments, but stressed that “the success of good bilateral contacts stands or falls on mutual respect.”

He stressed that he had discussed this with Koenders, adding that “although we have our disagreements, these have always taken place in a civilized manner, on the grounds of mutual respect.”

The statement by Koenders is the second time in recent months the foreign ministry of another country has felt the need to disavow the comments of its ambassador in Hungary.

Ahead of the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Budapest in mid-July, the Israeli Foreign Ministry retracted a previous statement issued by Israelʼs ambassador to Hungary calling on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his party to halt a poster campaign against Hungarian-born Jewish-American financier George Soros on the grounds that it was fueling anti-Semitism. The Israeli retraction went on to criticize Soros in similar terms to the Hungarian government; nevertheless, the posters were subsequently removed ahead of Netanyahuʼs arrival.

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