Dutch FM to stress cooperation on MH17, Syria during visit to Russia

Stef Blok (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)Stef Blok (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)

The prosecution of those responsible for the MH17 disaster is the first subject Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs will discuss with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Moscow on Friday. The Dutch Minister will also ask Russia to contribute to stopping the conflict in Syria, first of all by making a cease fire possible so that humanitarian aid can get to the people in the war-torn country, NOS reports.

"In the UN Security Council we agreed with all members that all countries will cooperate in the prosecution [of the MH17 perpetrators]. I want to again emphasize to my Russian colleague that it is of great importance that Russia also cooperates", Blok said, according to the broadcaster. He stressed that this does not mean Russia is currently not cooperating. "But the investigation is progressing and it is therefore even more important that this cooperation is there and will continue."

This visit to Moscow was initially scheduled for February, when former Minister Halbe Zijlstra of Foreign Affairs was set to meet Lavrov. But it was postponed because Zijlstra had to resign after lying about being at a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. His successor Blok is now going to Moscow.

This year the Netherlands is a temporary member of the UN Security Council. So Blok will also discuss the conflict in Syria with his Russian counterpart. "Russia plays a very important role in this, often a very negative one." Blok plans to emphasize that Russia's cooperation is crucial for achieving a ceasefire and getting humanitarian aid organizations access to Syria, and ultimately a sustainable solution.

When asked about any Dutch support for a military attack in Syria, Blok again said that he does not want to get ahead of things, according to NOS. "Yesterday I indicated that there were all sorts of reports that were still unclear. That is again the case today", he said to the broadcaster on Thursday. "I therefore think we need to operate step by step, see what the real developments are."

Minister Ank Bijleveld of Defense and Prime Minister Mark Rutte both said that the Dutch government understands why the United States is threatening military action in Syria. From China on Thursday Rutte told NOS that the government considers it "very likely that Syria is behind the terrible poison gas attack in Douma" on Saturday. He added that the government regrets that Russia blocked an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria in the UN Security council. 

Such an investigation could make clear "who exactly is responsible", Rutte said. But with it being impossible, and it looking like Syria is behind it, the government decided that the Netherlands understands "if the Americans with others do something", the Prime Minister said.