Foreign Minister Winston Peters has slammed Russia for its support of Syria but is holding on to his hopes for a free trade agreement in future - and said even a North Korea deal could happen one day.

Peters said he was asked about his supportive views for a free trade agreement with Russia when he was in Europe, including Brussels earlier this week. He said Europe was "very realistic" about such issues.

"In the end, we have to deal with the whole world and try and bring them round.

"At the moment we are talking to North Korea through the back door, through the United States. This is dramatic stuff and we need to do that.

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So [it is] EU first and other countries, but we hope in the long term we've got a free trade deal with North Korea. But not at the moment."

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, meets with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters inside the Cabinet War rooms in central London, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, meets with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters inside the Cabinet War rooms in central London, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government

Peters has been slow to point the finger at Russia in the past, but said he supported the decision to put moves on a Russia trade deal on ice following the nerve agent attacks in the US - and the chemical weapons use in Syria.

"It's rather axiomatic that if you're engaged with or assisting a party involved in a chemical weapon attack then all such progress must stop there.

"It does not mean when they come to their senses that there be something in the future."

Asked if the EU was concerned about his support for a Russia deal, he said "no, they were seriously realistic".

Peters would not say who he spoke about it to in Europe, saying it was "a passing conversation, of no great moment".

Peters said Russia had abused its veto power to block action against Syria for the use of chemical weapons.

"If you're going to get a veto power you've got to use it responsibly. They're not the only ones to have used it irresponsibly but in this case denying us access to critical information for humanity."

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Peters comments are as close as the Government has come to sheeting some blame to Russia for the use of chemical weapons by Syria because of its support for the Assad regime.

He would not say if he believed Russia should be held directly responsible for Syria.

"Syria has got far many more friends than just Russia and if you want to throw them in I could make a statement. But really that doesn't take us anywhere."

He said the use of chemical weapons was "illegal and abhorrent".

"We regard the perpetrators of that as being war criminals - that's how clear we are."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PM Theresa May have both said Russia had responsibility.

New Zealand is hoping to start free trade agreements with the EU soon and will start talks with the UK after March next year when the Brexit transition period starts.

Both the EU and UK have made it clear they would frown on any attempt to negotiate with Russia while it faces sanctions for the annexation of the Crimea and the Salisbury case.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meets Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters outside the Cabinet War rooms in central London. Photo / AP
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meets Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters outside the Cabinet War rooms in central London. Photo / AP

Peters also says a free trade agreement for the Commonwealth is on the cards.

He says there's a lot of excitement among Commonwealth countries about the prospect of an FTA.

Peters says since 2016 the idea has become quite real.

Peters hopes Commonwealth countries can get together the bones of an agreement long Britain leaves the EU.