December 18, 2009 / 12:38 PM / 11 years ago

Dutch to quiz Venezuela over "aggression" comment

AMSTERDAM, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The Dutch Foreign Ministry said it wants Venezuela’s ambassador to the Netherlands to clarify comments by President Hugo Chavez accusing the Netherlands of planning aggression against Venezuela.

Chavez said on Thursday the Netherlands was preparing “aggression” against Venezuela by allowing U.S. troops access to Dutch islands off the Caribbean coast of the OPEC nation. [ID:nN17191522]

“The foreign minister will ask the Venezuelan ambassador for clarification regarding these remarks,” a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.

He added all territories within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which include Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean, did not consider Chavez’s comments to be representative of the situation.

The United States has long had a presence on the islands of Curacao and Aruba, with about 250 Air Force crew and ground staff involved in counter-narcotics and surveillance operations over the Caribbean. [ID:nN30413188]

This surveillance happens from the air, and by unarmed planes only, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

On Thursday, Chavez did not say why he was accusing the Netherlands of preparing aggression now.

The Venezuelan president is embroiled in a dispute with neighbour Colombia over a deal to give the United States more access to its military bases. The former soldier says Washington fears his socialist government and is surrounding Venezuela.

While Chavez said the self-governing Dutch islands were located in Venezuelan territorial waters, the Dutch foreign ministry said there was an existing agreement about borders.

“The sea borders between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Venezuela have been established by treaty between the countries and the Netherlands expects Venezuela will respect that treaty,” the spokesman said.

Reporting by Catherine Hornby; editing by Michael Roddy

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