Goff hopeful of Israeli apology over spies

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff has said diplomatic talks to secure an apology over the Israeli spies case are progressing.

The Government is seeking an assurance from Israel that there will be no repeat of the incident in which suspected Mossad agents attempted to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports.

Mr Goff said today: "We have had an approach from Israel. We are hopeful the matter can be resolved and normal relations resumed."

The onus was on Israel to solve the problem as New Zealand was the wronged party.

"This country takes seriously agents being sent to do criminal acts," he said.

His comments came after the Herald revealed the Government refused to allow a senior Israeli military officer to visit New Zealand.

Mr Goff confirmed Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Gabi Ashkenazi was refused a visa for a one-day trip because of the freeze on high-level contact announced after the arrest of the two Israeli agents.

"It was denied on the basis of the announced policy by the New Zealand Government that there would not be high level contact," Mr Goff said on National Radio.

But he said he suspected that very few other visas had been refused as the ban was well known.

Asked if Israel had been testing the ban on high level visits, Mr Goff replied: "I can't read the mind of the Israeli Government."

Mr Goff said Maj-Gen Ashkenazi's visit could not be considered as private because he was to have addressed a public meeting.

The visa ban does not include ordinary Israeli citizens wishing to visit New Zealand.


The president of the Jewish Council, David Zwartz, said there was a long history of the Jewish community inviting speakers from overseas to fundraising events.


"I think it's unfortunate that the Government is applying its guidelines on a matter of diplomatic difference between Israel and New Zealand in a way that punishes the New Zealand Jewish community," he said on National Radio.


- NZPA, HERALD STAFF

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