Washington (AFP) - The US ambassador to the Netherlands is to meet Dutch Muslims after his arrival was clouded by his claim that the country is troubled by Islamist violence and no-go zones.
Dutch-born former Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra was President Donald Trump's pick to represent the United States in The Hague, despite his controversial theories.
Trouble erupted Wednesday when the new envoy refused to answer questions from Dutch reporters about his claims that Dutch Muslims had engaged in "burning cars and politicians."
On Thursday, the State Department said the US administration does not stand by these allegations, nor does it believe as Hoekstra apparently does in Muslim controlled "no-go zones."
But Hoekstra will not be withdrawn. Instead, he is going to try to explain his previous statements, made on US television in 2015, to the Dutch media and local communities.
"The Ambassador made mistakes in 2015, made comments that should not have been made," Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told reporters.
"He recognizes that, he apologized in December. He is doing an interview tomorrow," he continued.
"He is honored to be the Ambassador. He's been received well by the Dutch government, and we hope that he can be received well by the people of the Netherlands."
Asked whether the State Department agreed with Hoekstra's comments on the security situation and the place of Muslims in Dutch society, Goldstein said it did not.
"Those comments were not the position of the State Department and you will never hear those words from this podium or in any form," he said.
When he was asked why Hoekstra had not, himself, simply withdrawn the allegations, Goldstein said: "I appreciate that PR advice ... I share your view by the way."
On Wednesday, despite being repeatedly asked at a heated news conference at his residence in The Hague, Hoekstra refused to say whether he still stood by his views.
Angry Dutch reporters asked him several times whether he still believed there were "no-go areas" in The Netherlands, and to identify which politicians had been burned.
In a clip from the 2015 event, reportedly sponsored by the far-right David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hoekstra appears on a panel discussing the spread of radical Islam.
- 'Fake News' -
"The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos, chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned," he says.
The film caused a stir in The Netherlands last month when during an interview with the NOS public broadcaster, Hoekstra denied ever making the comments, saying it was "fake news."
But when the clip was played for him, the Dutch-born ambassador then denied accusing his interviewer on camera just moments before of "fake news."
In a Twitter message on December 23, Hoekstra said: "I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology."
A former representative for Michigan for 18 years in the US Congress, Hoekstra was born in the northern Dutch city of Groningen before his parents emigrated when he was just three.
He takes up the post as US envoy left vacant for two years, and as immigration is set to again be a hot-button issue in the Dutch local elections due on March 21.
"The Ambassador did not answer some of the questions that were asked of him. He recognizes that," Goldstein said.
"He is going to do a long-form interview tomorrow, that is the plan, with a Dutch outlet," he added.
"And he also plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in in the capital, including Muslim communities."