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Suriname issues protest note over Dutch minister's 'failed state' comment

FILE PHOTO: Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok attends a meeting with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, Egypt May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

PARAMARIBO (Reuters) - Suriname issued a protest note to the Netherlands on Thursday after the Dutch foreign minister said the South American nation was a “failed state” because of its ethnic diversity.

Stef Blok, a member of the conservative VVD party of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has faced a firestorm of criticism over comments he made on July 10 in The Hague that became public this week.

“This coarse accusation against peace and stability in the Republic of Suriname can only be intended to portray Suriname and its population negatively,” Suriname’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry, which summoned Dutch envoy Jaap Frederiks to receive the protest, added that the Netherlands was “seeking to isolate the Surinamese nation, with the possible agenda being the realization of a recolonisation.”

Suriname, a former Dutch colony that became independent in 1975, has a mix of ethnicities including people of Indonesian, African and Dutch ancestry, as well indigenous peoples.

Blok had told a gathering of Dutch employees of international organizations that “Suriname is a failed state and that is very much linked to its ethnic composition.”

Lawmakers from several Dutch political parties, including all members of the governing coalition, demanded an explanation for Blok’s remarks.

In a statement issued through his Twitter account, Blok said his language was too strong and he regretted the offence it caused.

Reporting by Ank Kuipers; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Peter Cooney