PM signs condolence book for Russian hostages

7th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

7 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — With a diplomatic row between the Netherlands and Russia still unresolved, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has signed a condolence register at the Russian embassy to honour the victims of the Beslan hostage tragedy.

7 September 2004

AMSTERDAM — With a diplomatic row between the Netherlands and Russia still unresolved, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has signed a condolence register at the Russian embassy to honour the victims of the Beslan hostage tragedy.

Amid news that at least 335 people were killed in last week's hostage drama and 200 more are unaccounted for, Balkenende signed the condolence register on behalf of the Dutch government on Monday. The chairman of the Dutch Lower House of Parliament, Frans Weisglas, also signed the register.

As the township of Beslan in North Ossetia continued burying its dead on Monday, the Russian ambassador to The Hague said it was "reasonably busy" at the condolence register with a constant flow of people coming and going.

Monday was Russia's first official day of mourning and the condolence register can still be signed on Tuesday, news agency Novum reported. A bank account number has also been set up for donations.

The account details are: Bank of Region Development in Vladikavkaz, beneficiary account, Relief Fund for Victims of Terrorist Act in Beslan. The account number is: HP 40911840200000000015. The BIC / SWIFT code is: REDVRU21.

But a spokeswoman for the Dutch Red Cross said that it has not set up a special bank account number because the precise needs of the hostage victims are not yet known. It is waiting for a worldwide notice from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva before launching a help-the-victims appeal.

On the diplomatic front, Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot wrote to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday to sooth the row he sparked last week.

Speaking as European Union President, Bot had raised the ire of Moscow when he said in a statement that the EU wanted to "know from Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened".

Russia said the comments were "libellous", while Russia's Foreign Ministry also said they were "insolent", "odious" and deeply offensive. Dutch ambassador, Tiddo Hofstee, was called to account for the incident.

Despite withdrawing the sentence from the official EU statement, Bot said his comments were misunderstood by Moscow. He pointed out that he had simply admitted he had insufficient information to judge how the tragedy unfolded.

And having failed to make telephone contact with Lavrov over the weekend, the Dutch minister's office sent a letter to Moscow and the Russian embassy in The Hague, French news agency AFP reported. Lavrov is currently on an official visit to the Mid East.

A spokesman for Bot said the minister "thinks the fight against terrorism requires the co-operation of all countries and he wants to know exactly what happened so that we can all learn from each other and help each other in this struggle".

Bot's statement last week was particularly sensitive because the Netherlands currently holds the rotating EU Presidency. EU-Russian relations have been strained for some time, most notably due to concerns over Russia's actions in Chechnya.

Meanwhile, the survivors of the Russian hostage tragedy were prayed for during a special ceremony in the Russian Orthodox church in Rotterdam on Monday night.
 
Some 30 people gathered for the ceremony, praying for the sick, injured and surviving relatives of the victims. Russians, Serbians and Greeks were among those who attended, news agency ANP reported. The victims who died were commemorated on Sunday.

Commemorative services will also be held this week in the Russian Orthodox churches in the Dutch cities Assen, The Hague, Groningen and the North Brabant town of Sint Hubert.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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