Dutch say Venezuela complaints groundless

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands said yesterday claims by Venezuela that Dutch military planes made illegal flights into the Latin American country’s airspace were groundless.

It also denied that a trip this week by Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen to the Netherlands Antilles, which neighbours Venezuela, was connected to the Venezuelan government’s comments, calling it a regular, scheduled event.

Venezuela said on Tuesday it had detected the flights between July 4 and July 7, and that the Dutch planes had attempted to conceal their identity and position. It called on the Dutch to take “necessary measures” to preserve bilateral relations. A Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Netherlands has told Venezuela it wanted to resolve the issue in constructive dialogue.

A dispute has simmered between the two countries since last December, when Venezuela twice accused the Dutch of letting the United States launch military spy flights from bases on the Dutch territories of Aruba and Curacao.

Venezuela claims those islands are within its territorial waters, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the Netherlands of planning “aggression” against his country in concert with the US.

Both countries have met twice since last December. The Foreign Ministry said that, in light of these meetings, it was surprised by Venezuela’s protestations on Tuesday.

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