THE HAGUE–Extending the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States (US) and the Dutch Kingdom to include Curaçao is beneficial for St. Maarten where it comes to US participation in disaster management.
The desire to have Curaçao be part of the SOFA became clear immediately after Hurricane Irma struck St. Maarten in September 2017. The fact that the SOFA did not apply to Curaçao made it difficult to deploy military personnel from the US from Curaçao to St. Maarten to assist US citizens who were stranded on St. Maarten due to the hurricane.
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok explained this in his response to a list of questions submitted by the Permanent Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament last week, regarding the process to make Curaçao part of the SOFA.
Aruba and St. Maarten are already party to this treaty between the US and the Kingdom regarding the status of US military personnel in the Dutch Caribbean. The Curaçao government at the time was not interested in joining when the treaty became effective in 2013. On September 1, 2018, the treaty was automatically extended for a five-year period.
The SOFA delineates the framework within which US military visits can take place in the Dutch Caribbean. Blok clarified that having a SOFA did not mean that the US could just enter the Dutch Caribbean without any prior consultation and permission by local authorities.
The minister explained that aside from the experiences with Hurricane Irma, there were two other reasons for Curaçao to become a party to the treaty – the training possibilities and the economic advantages. The SOFA makes it possible to have trainings and exercises, to have US military vessels visit and to provide assistance in case of a natural disaster.
Blok emphasized that including Curaçao in the SOFA did not mean that the Kingdom agreed with a military intervention of the US in Venezuela through Curaçao. “Such military deployment requires separate, explicit approval of the Kingdom.”
The minister said he understood the concerns of the Curaçao people and Parliament regarding the island’s hub function for humanitarian aid from the US for Venezuela. “It is important to understand that this concerns a civil humanitarian mission and not a military operation,” he said.
Blok noted that the deteriorated relations between the US and Venezuela, and the decision to use Curaçao as a hub for humanitarian aid were not the reasons for Curaçao to join the SOFA. When the process started in March 2018 to have Curaçao become part of the SOFA, it was not clear how the relations with Venezuela would evolve.
Bron: Daily Herald