Press Statement by Minister Bruins Slot on the situation in Gaza

Press statement by Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the bilateral meeting with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry. Cairo, Egypt, 4 March 2024. The spoken word applies.

Good afternoon,

Thank you minister Shoukry for the warm welcome. I am glad to be here in Cairo and speak at length in person.

I greatly appreciate our regular contact, and I look forward to continuing the close contacts we’ve had over the past months. And so does Prime Minister Rutte, who has regularly been in touch with president Sisi.

The Netherlands and Egypt have excellent and longstanding bilateral relations. We cooperate in many ways; politically, economically, but also in the fields of migration, water, green hydrogen and agriculture. 

To illustrate; Egypt is the fifth export destination for Dutch goods in the Middle East North Africa region. The total worth of Dutch export to Egypt is nearly 2 billion euros, and, Egypt hosts several Dutch companies.

Today, Minister Shoukry and I extensively discussed the dire situation in Gaza.

Let me take the opportunity to express my great appreciation for the crucial and constructive role Egypt plays in managing this crisis.

Egypt’s efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid, mediate between the conflicting parties, and to help people leave Gaza, have been imperative. We are extremely grateful for your help to get more than 90 people with Dutch ties out of Gaza. 

We have great concerns about the humanitarian catastrophe that is taking place in Gaza. This cannot continue.

Today, the eyes of the world are on Egypt once again, in the hope that negotiations on a ceasefire deal will be successful. An immediate ceasefire is urgently needed, that should lead to a sustainable cessation in hostilities.

To have all those still taken hostage by Hamas immediately released.
And to drastically increase the amount of humanitarian aid entering into Gaza. The people there are in dire need of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies.

We firmly call on Israel to ensure an immediate increase of humanitarian aid entering Gaza and the safe dispersal, to ensure that the distribution of aid can take place safely and unhindered.

We appreciated very much the opening of the Rafah border crossing by Egypt in an early stage to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The Netherlands has pushed consistently for the opening of Karam Abu Salam (Kerem Shalom). The crossings at Erez and Karni must be opened as well. And aid workers must be able to do their work safely.

I repeat these calls in all my contacts with Israel, and I will repeat it once again during my visit in Israel.

The Netherlands remains committed to contribute in whichever way we can. With Jordan, we have participated in air droppings, and we consider further droppings in the North of Gaza. And the Netherlands has made available 55 million euros for humanitarian organizations that are active in Gaza.

We support the Red Cross and the Egyptian Red Crescent, the World Food Program, and UN organizations such as OCHA and UNRWA.

And we support the indispensable work of UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag.

Together with minister Shoukry we are assessing how the Netherlands can further support Egypt’s efforts to increase humanitarian aid.

We also shared our concerns about Israel’s plans for a large scale military ground offensive in Rafah.

The Dutch government is convinced that such a ground offensive in Rafah would lead to an excessive number of civilian casualties, and an aggravated humanitarian disaster for civilians taking shelter there.

We therefore urgently call on Israel to refrain from these plans.

Finally, an imminent risk of escalation remains, both in the West Bank as a result of increasing settler violence, as well as in the wider region. 

Houthi rebels continue their attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea. As long as this threat continues, the international community will have to respond and work towards de-escalation in the Red Sea, free and safe passage, and safety for maritime personnel.

Preventing regional escalation is vital. 

Minister Shoukry, let me close by commending Egypt for its crucial role in the region.

And by underlining that the Netherlands looks forward to continue the excellent and broad cooperation with Egypt.

Thank you.