The Hague (AFP) - The Dutch government Monday said it needed more time to negotiate a compromise over a key EU-Ukraine pact, and will keep up intense talks at home and abroad ahead of a December EU summit.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been walking a political tightrope since an April 6 referendum -- organised by eurosceptic groups -- in which 60 percent of voters rejected the cooperation accord with Kiev.
The Netherlands is the only one of the 28-member bloc that has yet to ratify the accord, which aims to boost political dialogue as well as economic and trade cooperation.
Even though it was a non-binding referendum, and voter turnout was very low, Rutte has been trying to find a way to amend the pact to honour the outcome.
He is suggesting adding a clause about no-military cooperation, and no guarantees for Ukraine's accession to the European Union.
In a letter to parliament on Monday, Rutte said "only a legally binding solution that does justice to the 'no vote' can be ratified by The Netherlands."
"But this takes time," he stressed, adding it was in the country's "national interests to do our utmost to find a solution."
Rutte said he had already been in discussions with his European partners, and intended to continue the talks over the next six weeks leading up to the December 15-16 summit.
"Although no formal commitments have been made, the government believes that such a solution is feasible," Rutte added.
In a heartfelt plea to opposition parties on Friday, Rutte warned without compromise the agreement could fail, and offer Russia a vision of a divided Europe.
With a Tuesday Dutch parliamentary deadline looming for a solution, Rutte had warned his government would have no choice but to propose a law by late Monday withdrawing the country's support for the accord.
It would seem that weekend talks with opposition parties have bought the government more time to find a solution.
Rutte has found himself in a Catch-22 situation having failed to convince opposition parties to back his proposals to amend the accord. The opposition wants him to negotiate with Brussels first and bring back an amended treaty for debate.
But Rutte said Brussels first wanted assurances the accord will be passed by the Dutch parliament before asking other member states to accept any proposed changes.