October 24, 2012 4:41 PM
WASHINGTON DC, United States--The United States and The Netherlands signed an agreement Friday that will allow the U.S. military to continue exercises and other activities in the Dutch Caribbean.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro and Dutch Ambassador Rudolf Bekink signed a new U.S.-Kingdom of The Netherlands Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) at the Department of State on October 19.
The five-year agreement expands and builds upon the success of the previous 2005 agreement, and will facilitate participation by U.S. military personnel in joint exercises and training activities, ship visits by the U.S. Navy, and other cooperative activities with the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces in Aruba, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. While Curaçao is not currently covered by this agreement, the agreement does allow Curaçao to join at a later time.
This new Status of Forces Agreement illustrates the enduring strength of the U.S.-Kingdom of The Netherlands partnership in a strategically important region, advances shared security interests, and will bring significant benefits to local economies as well.
The agreement has already had a positive boost for the islands with The Washington Post running an article on Monday urging vacationers to pack their bags for Aruba, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, "whichever picturesque destination floats your boat — they're all covered under the new pact."
The Post wrote: "The obscure-sounding "Status of Forces Agreement" (fun acronym: SOFA) is one of many such pacts that allows U.S. military troops overseas to... well, legally be wherever they are. Sharing a SOFA might just be one of the best ways for two countries to get close.
"We'd like to volunteer for service in the region, which the State Department called "strategically important" (but we describe as "primo vacation destination"). Can we get an assignment sometime in January, perhaps? Meanwhile, we're off to scour this SOFA for provisions on umbrella drinks," according to The Washington Post.