Riyadh imposes sanctions on Dutch over Wilders’ Saudi flag sticker

A royal decree, made public by the Mecca chamber of commerce, bans “Dutch firms from taking part in future projects in the kingdom, whether directly or through sub-contracting”.

RIYADH // Saudi companies have been ordered to exclude Dutch firms from future projects because of stickers – printed by far-right politician Geert Wilders – that display anti-Islam slogans in the image of the Saudi flag.

Mr Wilders, the leader of the anti-immigration Dutch Freedom Party, is tied in first place with the Democrats in national opinion polls before European Parliament elections that will be held in the Netherlands on Thursday.

His virulent anti-Islam statements have angered many and Mr Wilders has lived under 24-hour armed guard since he received death threats in 2004.

A royal decree, made public by the Mecca chamber of commerce, bans “Dutch firms from taking part in future projects in the kingdom, whether directly or through sub-contracting”.

It also reduces to a minimum the number of visas “for Dutch companies and investors who are not part of vital projects in the kingdom.”

And it orders an end visits by trade delegations between the two countries.

A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said the government was trying to contact Riyadh regarding the matter. The stickers were first printed in December.

He said the government had indications that the measures were “because of the insults to its flag and religion by Geert Wilders”.

“The cabinet strongly distanced itself from the insults Wilders first made to the Saudi flag and the religion in December,” said the spokesman. “It still does now.”

Mr Wilders’ stickers, which are in green and white script with a sword like the Saudi flag, carry derogatory comments about Islam, the Prophet Mohammed and the Quran.

Bilateral trade was about US$5 billion (Dh18.35bn) in 2010 and the Netherlands was among the largest investors in Saudi Arabia, making up nearly 4 per cent of foreign direct investment that year, said the Dutch government.

In addition to trade in oil and gas, the Netherlands exports a wide range of products and technology in the agriculture, machinery, chemical and petrochemical sectors in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Wilders, in reaction to possible trade measures by Saudi Arabia, said the Netherlands “should have boycotted that country a long time ago”.

* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Reuters

Published: May 17, 2014 04:00 AM

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