Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Antipodean mouse's roar lost in all the excitement

The mouse might have roared very loudly indeed - but the elephants he was busy poking with his toothpick were far too busy to hear it.

Minutes before Prime Minister John Key stood in the UN General Assembly to deliver his statement, news came out - via Twitter of all things - that the United States and Russia had agreed on what many thought impossible: a resolution to require Syria to hand over its chemical weapons.

It was rather bad timing for Mr Key, who used very strong language to castigate the five permanent members of the Security Council for failing to achieve exactly that.

Key's speech prompted some to wonder why he was criticising the UN and Security Council when New Zealand was seeking a seat on that body.

The answer is that it is not the UN itself which makes such appointments, but rather its member states. Mr Key needs 129 of them to get New Zealand a Security Council seat in 2015, and he knew he was not alone in his views.

Countries including Peru, Turkey, Qatar, East Timor, the G4 grouping of those seeking permanent seats without a veto power (Brazil, India, Japan and Germany) were among the many Mr Key was echoing.

South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, added his voice at the General Assembly: "We cannot remain beholden indefinitely to the will of an unrepresentative minority."

So it's probably a safe bet that there were others quietly nodding their heads at Mr Key's statement. The reason for the strong rhetoric was to persuade those nodding heads that New Zealand intended to do something about it.

Mr Key's other point was that the five permanent members were abusing the power their veto gave them to bypass the other Security Council members.

The same was true of the day's second breakthrough - the meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif - the first such high-level meeting in 35 years. Mr Zarif, too, had met the five permanent members rather than the full council - and that will rankle with some.

So Mr Key's address was not targeted at the big five, but rather at those other ears that might be pndering whether to vote for New Zealand for the Security Council. His rhetoric was so strong, he could not back away from pushing for the reforms if New Zealand did make it.

But it is the big five that are the heavy-hitters at the UN General Assembly. The closest John Key could get to being seen as anywhere near as important was if somebody confused his name with that of John Kerry.

- NZ Herald

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