Diplomatic Corps strengthening bonds at Diplomat Club Wassenaar, the Netherlands

first row, from left to right: H.E. Mr Ziad Al Atiyah (Saudi Arabia) and Mrs Amal Al Masser, H.E. Mr Hatem Elsayed Mohamed Kamaleldin (Egypt) and Mrs Rania Abouelela, H.E. Mrs Salima Adelhak (Algeria), H.E. Sheikh Dr Abdullah Salim Hamed Al Harthi (Oman) and Mrs Ghada Al Saifi, H.E. Dr Greg French (Australia), H.E. Mr Victor Biyagov (Armenia), DG, H.E. Mr Fernando Arias (OPCW), Mrs Shida Bliek, Mayor Leendert de Lange and Mrs Marleen De Lange-Heldens, H.E. Ms Frances-Galatia Lanitou Williams (Cyprus),  H.E. Mr Mario Oyarzábal (Argentina), H.E. Mr Hiroshi Minami (Japan), Mr Daniel Hallman, H.E. Mr Roseli Abdul (Malaysia), Mr. Peter Bliek and H.E. Ms Corinne Suzanne Cicéron Bühler (Swiss Federation

Second row, from left to right: H.E. Mr Vusi Madonsela (South Africa), H.E. Mr Mohamed Basri (Morocco)and Mrs Insaf Ghanemi, H.E. Mr Askar Zhumagaliev (Kazakhstan) and Mrs Ainura Zhumagaliev, H.E. Mr Selçuk Űnal (Türkiye) and Mrs Lerzan Kayihan Űnal, H.E. Mr Agustín Vásquez Gómez (El Salvador) and Mrs Mirella Poscasangre de Vasquez, H.E. Mr Arnoldo Brenes Castro (Costa Rica), H.E. Mrs Liguemoh Ondoua Madeleine (Cameroon), H.E. Mr Oliver Jean Patrick Nduhungirehe (Rwanda), H.E. Mr David Solomonia (Georgia) and Mrs Olena Terentieva, Mrs Patricia van Oordt de Arias, H.E. Ms Elizabeth Ward Neiman (Panama), Mrs Bianca French, Mrs Misao Minami

Twenty-two ambassadors, many accompanied by their spouses, attended December 8th, 2023, the welcome ceremony for newly accredited ambassadors to the Netherlands where they were warmly welcomed as honorary members of Diplomat Club Wassenaar at Kasteel De Wittenburg.

The vibrant gathering, with some ambassadors in their national attire was beautifully set off against the backdrop of this charming castle dating back to 1899. The solemn Dutch notables depicted on the paintings adorning the walls seemed to be gazing down at the assembly, representing nearly all the continents in the world.

It was an occasion for the ambassadors to meet new ambassadors, some of whom only presented their letters of accreditation to His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Kingdom of the Netherlands last week, and which enabled them to meet their colleagues and other distinguished guests before the majority return to their country of origin for the end of year celebrations.

On arrival, the new ambassadors received the traditional Dutch flag pin bestowed by Mrs Shida Bliek, founder and President-Director of Diplomat Club Wassenaar.
In her welcome speech, Mrs Bliek, warmly welcomed all the guests, expressing her gratitude that so many had made time in their busy agendas to attend, before she addressed the guest of honour, Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Fernando Arias who was accompanied by his wife Mrs Patricia van Oordt de Arias.
Mrs Bliek thanked Director-General, Ambassador Arias for playing such an inspiring role in Diplomat Club Wassenaar since his arrival ten years ago, then as Ambassador of Spain. 

Quote: “Director-General, Ambassador Arias we are grateful for your almost 10-year support, in creating a neutral place, where friendships are strengthened.
As a token of our appreciation, we would like to award you with a pearl pin, symbolizing: integrity, acceptance, and the understanding of others. It also represents wisdom, tranquillity, and peace.  Far from us the idea of competing with the countless, prestigious international awards that have already been bestowed on you, but we wish in this way to express our gratitude.”

It was than time for a more ‘formal’ welcome of the new ambassadors by the Mayor of the Municipality of Wassenaar, the honourable Leendert de Lange. After the Mayor emphasised the important role that Mrs Bliek fulfils, he too addressed the guest of honour: “Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador, H.E. Mr Fernando Arias and Mrs Patricia van Oordt de Arias, the municipality of Wassenaar gave you almost ten years ago a tie on your arrival in the Netherlands. The ties are undeniable ……so this time we would like to present you with our famous local cheese, made from the milk of cows here in Wassenaar”!

Mayor Leendert de Lange endeared himself immediately to the assembly by welcoming the newly arrived ambassadors in their native tongue. After sharing many Dutch anecdotes Mayor de Lange said:” I am of course the mayor of Wassenaar, and I love to recommend my village, but the entire province of South Holland deserves to be visited, as of course does the rest of the country, preferably by bicycle, the Dutch way”. In touch with the Dutch. He concluded his speech with the following words:” A new year lies ahead of us. Let us hope it will be one in which we continue to live in peace and harmony with each other. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me, my door is always open”. On behalf of the Municipality of Wassenaar, local Dutch Cheeses were handover to the ambassadors.

The New ambassadors and the ambassadors that did not have a chance to attend a welcome ceremony before are, in alphabetical order of country:

Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, H.E. Mr Victor Biyagov
Ambassador of Australia, H.E. Dr Greg French and Mrs Bianca French
Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E. Ms Frances-Galatia Lanitou Williams
Ambassador of Japan, H.E. Mr Hiroshi Minami and Mrs Misao Minami
Ambassador of Kazakhstan, H.E. Mr Askar Zhumagaliev and Mrs Ainura Zhumagaliev
Ambassador of Malaysia, H.E. Mr Roseli Abdul
Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman, H.E. Sheikh Dr Abdullah Salim Hamed Al Harthi
Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation, H.E. Ms Corinne Suzanne Cicéron Bühler

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr Ziad Al Atiyah took the floor to congratulate Mrs. Shida Bliek with the successful welcome dinner. He emphasized how immensely the Diplomatic Corps appreciates these unique opportunities to network in this informal and friendly environment that contribute to the tightening of friendships. He also thanked Mayor Leendert de Lange for his contribution. His Excellency then turned to the guest of honour the Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Arias thanking him for his leadership and the impressive contribution he has made since his appointment in 2018 as Director-Generalof the OPCW, also expressing his deep respect for him as a person.

Director-General Arias in turn thanked Mrs Shida Bliek and Mr Peter Bliek and it was clear through his words how much he appreciated all the recognition.
Director-General, Ambassador Arias also thanked the Mayor of Wassenaar for his kind words and for the gift he received from the municipality.
Ambassador Al Atiyah was heartily thanked for his fine words by Director-General Arias, and he emphasized how paramount mutual respect is in these challenging times so that important decisions can be made together, bringing a positive contribution to the dire events currently occurring in the world.

In essence, the bi-annual diplomatic corps ceremony for newly arrived ambassadors to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, welcoming them as honorary members of Diplomat Club Wassenaar, hosted graciously by the founder/ President-Director, Mrs. Shida Bliek for almost ten years, in collaboration with the Municipality of Wassenaar and Kasteel De Wittenburg, continue to be highly appreciated by the diplomatic community. 
The statements made this evening testified to the actual “building of bridges” and tightening of friendship between colleagues and with Dutch Society.

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