Saudi sanctions on NL start today

Saudi Arabia has begun imposing trade sanctions against companies based in the Netherlands in reaction to PVV-leader Geert Wilders' anti-Islam stickers. The measures will be imposed by declaration of King Abdullah, reports.

The sanctions have been announced by local sources on the basis of a message from the ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The Saudi authorities themselves have not yet confirmed the sanctions. Minister Frans Timmermans of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that they are now asking for clarity about that.

The threat of sanctions was sparked by Geert Wilders' anti-Islam stickers, the design of which looks a lot like the Saudi Arabian flag, but replaces the Islamic creed with religious slander. One of those stickers was sent to the Saudi Embassy in The Hague.

Timmermans wants to ensure that the lucrative Dutch-Saudi trade relations remain safe. He doesn't want Saudi Arabia to discount the entire country over the "pubescent behavior of a parliamentarian." According to him, sanctions have been a possibility for some time, and there have been discussions to try and prevent those from happening. He previously said, "Wilders' opinion, to willfully emotionally damage people by manipulating their flag, is in no way shared by the Dutch government."

Timmermans will travel to Riyadh to once again clarify the Dutch position.

Wilders himself decries Saudi Arabia for dismissing democracy and the right to freedom of speech. In a reaction, he said that Saudi Arabia is a "barbaric country that cannot even spell the words 'human rights.'"

Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher has called the sanctions an "insane threat." According to the Dutch government, there are five sectors in Saudi Arabia that can be lucrative for Dutch companies: water management, the medical sector, construction and infrastructure, education and the energy sector.