Saudi Arabia threatens NL trade sanctions over Wilders insults
Geert Wilders has incurred the wrath of Saudi Arabia. Last December the PVV-leader spread green anti-islam stickers that look like the Saudi Arabian flag. In place of the islamic creed, the text reads: 'Islam is a lie. Mohammed is a crook. The Qur'an is poison.' One of these stickers was sent to the Saudi embassy in The Hague with a letter. Now, Minister Frans Timmermans of Foreign Affairs says he will travel to Saudi Arabia in the very near future to try and dissuade the trade sanctions threatened against the Netherlands.
The Saudi business newspaper Al Iqtisadiya cites an anonymous source at the Saudi Council for the Chamber of Commerce. This source announced that the Saudi ambassador wrote the powers in Riyadh about Wilders' action, which is being stamped as hostile against Islam and Saudi Arabia. The source reported that the relevant Saudi Authorities were told that Dutch companies will be left out of future projects in the country. Visas to Dutch nationals will also be limited. This would be a hard blow to the Netherlands, as export to Saudi Arabia, and investments there are worth billions. According to the Volkskrant, based on CBS statistics, Saudi Arabia's main export to the Netherlands is mineral fuels, which was worth just under €34 billion in 2013. Exports to Saudi Arabia from the Netherlands include machines and transport material for just over €8 billion, chemical products for €4.8 billion, foodstuffs and living animals for €3.7 billion among other products. Timmermans now wants to go to Riyadh, the capital, "to try to iron this out." The minister's top officer will travel ahead next week. Where Timmermans hopes to use diplomacy to maintain the relations between the two countries, his party cohort, minister Lodewijk Asscher of Social Affairs, sees things differently. Asscher calls the possible economic sanctions a "crazy threat", the Volkskrant reports. "We have freedom of expression in the Netherlands. That is useless if another country thinks they have to impose sanctions." Asscher stated, on behalf of the Cabinet, that Wilders' new anti-Islam campaign sticker was "a sickening sticker with the sole aim to harm." Prime Minister Mark Rutte is taking the threats seriously. "We are figuring it out. We are on top of it", he said. Timmermans is unsure why Saudi Arabia is choosing to take this stance now, five months after Wilders' stickers came out. The ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasizes that there is no trade boycott. "We have been in discussions with Saudi Arabia about this for some time", Timmermans said Sunday. This is not the first time that Geert Wilders has directed his right to freedom of expression towards anti-Islam campaigning. In 2008, Saudi Arabia was one of several Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, to sign a protest petition against Wilders' anti-Qur'an film Fitna. Under their pressure, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to monitor the freedom of expression. Countries find that the Netherlands should ban religious slander. In a reaction, PVV-leader Geert Wilders calls Saudi Arabia "a dictator who can't even spell the words freedom and democracy. We should have boycotted that country a long time ago Who do they think they are to lecture a Dutch politician?"