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Audrey Young

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

NZ backing US peace moves in Middle East

McCully will voice support and concerns when he meets Israel and Palestine leaders this week.

Murray McCully's meetings this week will follow up the support for the Middle East peace process that he expressed to John Kerry last month. Photo / AP
Murray McCully's meetings this week will follow up the support for the Middle East peace process that he expressed to John Kerry last month. Photo / AP

Foreign Minister Murray McCully will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on their home ground this week to add his support for the US-led peace process.

He said he wanted to see what New Zealand could do constructively to move the process forward during his visit to the Middle East. He would also express concern at the effects of Israeli resettlements.

"I will be emphasising how concerned we are that the settlement process is reducing room for a two-state solution," Mr McCully told the Herald. "We believe that is in no one's interests, including theirs."

Mr McCully made it clear to US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington last month that New Zealand supported his renewed efforts and would favourably consider any request to take part in any international security force required for a buffer zone between two states.

"We obviously have a full Cabinet process to go through before we can decide to do anything of that sort," he said yesterday.

One of the big challenges as far as the Palestinians were concerned would be to get agreement on a security zone.

"Quite what that will look like none of us can know but I think it is reasonable to expect that some sort of international presence there would be required.

"I think it is the sort of thing New Zealand would expect to be asked and I think the international community would expect us to give some sort of positive answer."

Mr McCully discussed support for the Middle East peace process with other Foreign Ministers last week in Bali where countries in the Asean group met Latin American Foreign Ministers. There was a strong desire to see some progress.

Commenting on the US decision to provide weapons to rebels in Syria, citing the use of chemical weapons against them, Mr McCully said it was too early for New Zealand to have a view about any response from the United States on getting involved there.

There was a mounting body of credible evidence that chemical weapons had been used and that was profoundly disturbing. He was waiting for further information on what was planned.

"It's a time for us look carefully at what is developing rather than be too bold in our statements."

Asked about the results of Iran's presidential elections in which moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani will succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr McCully was cautiously positive.

"All of the players in Iran, wherever they are on the spectrum, take some positions that we would regard as unhelpful so we should not be starry-eyed about this," he said.

"But it does bring a new person into the discussion and that is always a very hopeful and positive thing when things have been as difficult as they are."

- NZ Herald

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