22 May 2013

McCully supports US moves for Middle East peace

12:31 pm on 22 May 2013

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand could be asked to send troops to the Middle East if a peace deal is made between Israel and the Palestinians, but any such decision would be made by Cabinet.

Mr McCully pledged New Zealand's support to the peace process when he met the US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Washington.

Murray McCully and John Kerry met in Washington.

Murray McCully and John Kerry met in Washington. Photo: US STATE DEPARTMENT

Mr Kerry maintains a peace deal is still possible despite recent violent protests in the past week on the West Bank

Mr McCully told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday that if a deal is made New Zealand might be asked to send soldiers to the Middle East as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

"It would be reading too much into it to say that I've offered troops. I'm simply pledging New Zealand's support for the work that Secretary Kerry is engaged in at the moment."

Whether moves by the US to promote a Middle East peace process would eventually lead to a request for a peace-keeping activity is not yet known, he says, and there is a process for evaluating such requests.

"It is reasonable to expect that we would be asked to do something of that sort if there's some sort of buffer zone as part of a Middle East peace process but that's getting way ahead of things at the moment."

Mr McCully says any final decision to deploy would be made by Cabinet.

A politics lecturer at Waikato University, Ron Smith, says given the volatile situation in the region, it's unlikely the pledge of support will turn into actually sending a contingent.

Dr Smith says if New Zealand soldiers were sent, considerably more would need to be spent to ensure the troops had sufficient resources and training for the job.