The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development said yesterday there is need to maintain stronger and mutually beneficial relations between Rwanda and the Kingdom of Netherlands.
Lilianne Ploumen spoke as she wrapped up her two-day trip to Rwanda with the signature of an aviation treaty between the two countries.
Ploumen promised to do more consultations to better understand economic and political issues surrounding the bilateral relations.
"When I get back I will take some time to reflect because I think the relationship between Rwanda and the Netherlands is an important one," she told a news briefing at Kigali International Airport before flying to Burundi.
At the airport, Ploumen signed an aviation treaty with Rwanda's Minister of Infrastructure, Albert Nsengiyumva, a deal which will enable Rwanda to use the Dutch airport of Amsterdam for her airline operations in Europe, while Holland will also use the Kigali airport to connect with the Great Lakes region.
The agreement will also help Rwanda to benefit from the experience of the Netherlands in the aviation sector since it also covers mutual technical support.
"We hope that this signing will open up other opportunities for cooperation, particularly technical cooperation," Nsengiyumva said after signing the deal.
"It's a sign of trust that they have for us after they have seen what we have been doing in developing the aviation sector like refurbishing our Kigali airport and operating our own national airline."
Ploumen said the agreement will open up opportunities since it's likely to allow the expansion of the existing cooperation.
"It's very good that today we are here to sign this agreement. What we are actually doing is formalising something that has been working out very well for the past few years. There are flights between Amsterdam and Kigali and this puts a legal framework on that cooperation," she said.
With the agreement in place, it won't be only the Royal Dutch Airline KLM flying to Rwanda as it has been happening but also the Rwanda national carrier RwandAir can start flying to Amsterdam, a source at the Dutch Embassy in Kigali told The New Times shortly before the deal was signed.
Ploumen held talks with Rwandan government officials including President Paul Kagame, members of the private sector and some of the key international organisations operating in the country.
"I have been here for about 22 hours now and we have discussed many things among which are the opportunities for economic cooperation between our two countries and having the infrastructure to be able to travel to one another is very important," she said. She highlighted the need for entrepreneurs in her country to intervene in power distribution in Rwanda to enable small businesses here to grow.
The Dutch foreign ministry suspended making payments worth $6.15 million to Rwanda's budget in July, last year, and said it would resume the aid after receiving reassurances from Kigali that Rwanda wasn't supporting the M23 rebels fighting the Kinshasa government. Rwanda has denied links with the rebels.
The minister said her trip in the Great Lakes region will help her better understand both political and economic issues in the region and it's from here that she hopes to advise her country on issues surrounding the suspension of aid to Rwanda.
She was in the Democratic Republic of Congo before her trip to Rwanda.
"I feel it's important to talk with as many people as possible to get their perspective on the situation, both politically and economically," she said.
Apart from private businesses between the Dutch people and Rwandans, Rwanda is one of the 15 countries worldwide with which the Netherlands has a longstanding and broad development cooperation programme. The Kingdom has focused on supporting Rwanda's justice sector, food security, and water resource management.