New Zealand's two-year term on the United Nations Security Council officially begins today.
After a long campaign, New Zealand won the seat in October, becoming one of the 10 non-permanent members.
This country's permanent representative to the UN, Jim McLay, has already been sitting in on council meetings and, from today, will assume New Zealand's seat.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the council would have one main focus this year.
"Most eyes are going to be focused on the Middle East, not just what's happening in Syria and Iraq but also whether the Middle East peace process can be revived while there's still the possibility of a two-state solution," he said.
"Time is running out there and we've been renewing our diplomatic efforts to try and get the parties around the table and to see something happen there before it's too late."
New Zealand would continue to lobby the five permanent members of the Security Council to exercise restraint when using their veto.
When the UN was formed in 1940s the permanent members said they needed the veto to protect their vital national interests, he said.
"But of course we now see them using the veto in situations that go far beyond that.
"One of the things that we've been trying to impress on them is the need for them to exercise more restraint, to accept voluntary restraints on the use of the veto."
Mr McCully said he expected Prime Minister John Key would attend in September 2016, when New Zealand holds the council presidency.