World Bulletin / News Desk
Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra was in hot water Monday after admitting he lied about attending a controversial 2006 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The revelation is an embarrassment for Zijlstra as he heads Tuesday to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
A member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal VVD party -- the leading party in the country's ruling coalition -- Zijlstra had previously insisted he was present at the meeting at Putin's dacha 12 years ago which included Jeroen van der Veer, Shell's former chief executive.
A former Shell contractor, Zijlstra told members at a VVD congress in May 2016 he was there "in the background as an assistant" during the meeting in which Putin allegedly spoke about his definition of a "Greater Russia", the paper said.
"I clearly heard Vladimir Putin's answer about what his understanding was of 'Greater Russia'," Zijlstra told the audience.
Putin "wants to go back to a 'Greater Russia' and his answer was that it included Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic States," he said at the time.
But Zijlstra changed his tune over the weekend, telling De Volkskrant that although he still stood by the gist of Putin's words, he should not have lied about attending the meeting.
"It wasn't clever. I should have done it differently," said Zijlstra, adding he had "borrowed" the story from someone else who was at the meeting and had told him about it.
Zijlstra's appointment in October as foreign minister raised eyebrows in The Netherlands because of his perceived lack of diplomatic credentials.
"His spin doctors" had used the story of the Putin meeting "to ward off criticism about his lack of foreign experience," Volkskrant said.
Asked why he had lied, Zijlstra told the respected daily he "wanted to protect the actual source" who was at the meeting.
Asked Monday about the issue, Rutte said "the content is true, but he should not have claimed to be somewhere when he was not."
Rutte however said he still found his foreign minister to be credible as "the crux of the story is true," he told reporters.
Among other things, Zijlstra is due to discuss with Lavrov the Dutch-led probe into the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Last month, Hague-based tribunal called for campaign to support ‘victims of situation in Palestine’
Israel closed Kerem Shalom crossing last month over the launch of arson balloons from Gaza
The dead included an unspecified number of Venezuelans and Colombians, whose embassies were notified of the accident outside Quito, they said.
Products include cars, rice, some alcohol and tobacco products, cosmetic products like sun creams
The government of the economically-ravaged country has for many years heavily subsidized petrol and Maduro says this has now led to a voracious black market in oil smuggled to neighbouring countries.
Iraqi premier will meet Turkish President Erdogan during the visit
US to strengthen military 'like never ever before,' Trump says of $716B bill
Some 69 children were among those arrested by Israel last month
The militant was convicted of killing a number of police and army personnel in Nineveh province
If US officials confirm "the offer for the FBI to investigate links in Florida with the assassination plan... I would agree for the FBI to come here," Maduro said at an event with top military leaders late on Saturday.
Move comes after US re-imposed first round of economic sanctions on Iran, targeting country’s banking sector
Move comes few days after Pakistan, Russia signed agreement for military officers’ training
More than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since March
Clothing retailer’s advertising campaign on YouTube receives more than 1 million hits
Officer Mike Moore tells group of African Americans 'you don’t belong in my city'