New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has met his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad al-Maliki, as the visitor seeks support for Palestine's bid for membership of the United Nations this month.

Mr Maliki, on his first visit to New Zealand, also expressed a wish to set up a diplomatic post in Wellington - something Mr McCully said would be "very welcome" if Palestine was in a position to do so.

Mr Maliki said his discussions with Mr McCully on the fringes of the Pacific Islands Forum were "very open, very frank, very serious" and he was hopeful of securing support for the recognition of Palestine as a state.

He also hoped to be able to set up an embassy in Wellington if that happened.


"I came out very confident that at least they understood our position very well. We consider New Zealand as friends, as much as they are friends to Israel. That doesn't bother us at all."

Yesterday, Mr McCully said New Zealand would wait to see the wording of any resolution before it made its decision. "We've got a reputation for being fair minded and even handed on this matter and all we can do is wait to see the words."

He said New Zealand had stepped up its contact with the Palestine Authority and its institutions.

"If they have the ability to put something on the ground in Wellington, it will be very welcome."

Mr Maliki said Palestine was willing to show the text of a draft resolution to New Zealand before it went to the United Nations, something other countries had also requested.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to present an application for membership of the United Nations in a fortnight. Full membership would require the support of the Security Council - and would fail if the United States exercised its veto.

Another option was a resolution in the General Assembly giving it upgraded observer status, making it a non-member state. That would be an implicit recognition of Palestine as a state.

NZ does not recognise Palestine as a state, but its position has been to support a two-state solution to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.


Mr Maliki also met representatives from several of the Pacific countries while he was in Auckland.