Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Middle East a hot topic as McCully meets Kerry

Foreign Minister Murray McCully met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington early today (NZ time) and most of their meeting was spent discussing the Middle East.

Mr McCully offered New Zealand's support towards the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, which could take the form of New Zealand peacekeepers taking part in an international force to run a buffer zone between the two states.

He said later that New Zealand was seen as a country that had had troops in the Sinai helping to maintain peace between Egypt and Israel for 31 years, and it would be turned to early for further support.

Mr Kerry had been extremely pleased to hear that New Zealand might be one of the countries that would be prepared to help, Mr McCully said later.

"I made the point directly to him but also publicly that the strongest possible US leadership is a pre-condition to any real progress on the Middle East peace process, but that doesn't mean that the US should be left to do all the heavy lifting by themselves."

Mr Kerry posed for a picture with Mr McCully before the meeting, and made a brief statement saying: "Our friends in New Zealand are just that, a special relationship, 175 years of an active relationship. We're going to build upon the Wellington and Washington Declarations."

New Zealand had been a partner in a lot of initiatives of interests, "particularly helping out in a place like Afghanistan," Mr Kerry said.

"They've been an enormous global partner. The regional issues, particularly the Korea Peninsular, the challenges in the South China Sea are important to all of us and we rely on our friends in New Zealand for the strength of the relationship, not just in the region but globally, and we share a lot of values and a lot of interests."

Straight after the meeting Mr Kerry headed to the Middle East for his fourth visit since taking over the job on February 1.

Mr McCully offered New Zealand's support in the eventuality that Mr Kerry achieves a breakthrough in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution.

"If we get into a situation where there is any Middle East peace process fashioned, clearly there will be a need for international support on the development and the security front."

The US Administration was also keen to do some capacity building in Palestine, and Mr McCully and Mr Kerry discussed that today.

"At this stage what we've agreed to do is to keep talking because we're not at a point where there's anything taking particular shape yet. But the fact that he's going back for a fourth time tells us he's deadly serious."

Mr McCully described Mr Kerry as having more of a sense of determination than a sense of optimism about the outcome.

The window in which to achieve a two-state solution was about 18 months to two years.

"He is giving this thing his best shot, and we should support him in that."

Mr McCully said he had invited Mr Kerry to New Zealand, and the US Secretary of State was keen to make a return visit having holidayed here in a private capacity in the past couple of years.

Read more: Audrey Young's Back in the USA blog

- NZ Herald

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