Saudi trade sanctions bite Dutch companies

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Geert Wilders.

Geert Wilders.

Sanctions imposed on Dutch companies by Saudi Arabia following the distribution of anti-Islamic stickers by populist politician Geert Wilders are now biting, and could further hurt business interests of the Netherlands, said Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans on Thursday.

Timmermans said Saudi authorities had made clear that trade restrictions were in place, though there has been no official notification.

“Some companies are facing problems … and are confronted with trade restrictions,” said Timmermans in a letter to the Dutch Parliament. The government was doing all it could to “resolve” the problem, he said.

Asked about the progress in talks between Saudi and Dutch governments on the issue, Laurens Westhoff, the Netherlands ambassador, expressed his inability to comment.

“I am not in a position to give you a statement. Please call the embassy spokesman,” Westhoff said. The embassy’s spokesman did not return a call from Arab News.

A reliable source at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) confirmed that “there is not much change in the Saudi position since the sanctions were imposed.” He said that the Kingdom had decided to exclude Dutch contracting companies from implementing any current or future projects in the country following Wilders’ offensive remarks.

He said that the number of visas issued to Dutch nationals is also being reduced as a result. The Kingdom has already stopped all exchange visits between businessmen of the two countries.

But Timmer-mans, who plans to visit Saudi Arabia, sounded optimistic on the issue on Thursday. He said in a written answer to MPs’ questions that a visit to Saudi Arabia at the end of May by a senior civil servant had failed to win clarity.

“Neither during the visit nor in the weeks afterward has any confirmation been received that the Saudi government has taken measures,” Timmermans said.

The Netherlands has been traditionally a commercial partner of the Kingdom. Dutch exports to Saudi Arabia amounted to $3.2 billion last year. The Dutch government has distanced itself from the action of Wilders that has strained bilateral ties.

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