Verhagen Sends Aboutaleb to Arab League Summit
THE HAGUE, 13/02/08 - Rather than Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, Social Affairs State Secretary Ahmed Aboutaleb was representing the Dutch government yesterday during an EU meeting with the Arab League in the Maltese capital Valetta.
Verhagen himself asked Aboutaleb to deputise for him, according to Aboutaleb. He gave as a reason that they "sometimes exchange ideas about the Middle East" but acknowledged that the fact that he is an Arab and a Muslim played a role. "It sometimes goes a bit easier if you get it in a word," said the state secretary. He holds Moroccan as well as Dutch citizenship.
The Arab League is demanding an active role from the EU in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to solve the humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip, according to Aboutaleb. The Labour (PvdA) state secretary said both parties in the Middle East conflict have to make painful decisions. "The humanitarian situation in Gaza can no longer bear Israel keeping the borders closed. At the same time it is recognised that in the interests of the security of Israel, the rocket-firing by Hamas really has to stop."
Aboutaleb has been approached by the Arab League about the Koran film that MP Geert Wilders wants to show in March. Aboutaleb says he has explained that freedom of speech is an important good in the Netherlands and that the government cannot interfere preventatively.
1) Verhagen Sends Aboutaleb to Arab League Summit