Tuesday 19 November 2019

Dutch ‘disappointed’ they were not briefed about US decision to leave northern Syria

Dutch defence minister Ank Bijleveld has said she is ‘disappointed’ that US president Donald Trump did not brief the Netherlands and other countries about his plans to pull out of northern Syria.

‘This is not how you treat each other,’ broadcaster NOS quoted her as saying. ‘Allies should always keep each other informed… and that is what you should be able to expect.’

The minister was speaking during a debate on the defence industry in The Hague, organised by Elsevier magazine which was held a week after Trump announced US troops were leaving north-eastern Syria. Three days later Turkey launched an air and ground offensive against Kurdish militias, who had helped drive out IS with US support.

However, the US ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, was unimpressed by the minister’s comments, NOS said. ‘The Netherlands has walked away from Syria,’ Hoekstra is quoted as saying after the event was over. ‘The minister can be disappointed. That is fine.’

The Netherlands is a member of the anti-IS coalition, although it currently has no troops or fighter jets in the region. And in June, the Netherlands rejected calls from the US for ground troops for the new US mission in Syria because there was no UN mandate.

European ministers, including Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok, are meeting to discuss the conflict on Monday.

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