2 Sep 2013

US asks NZ for moral support over Syria

9:34 pm on 2 September 2013

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will carefully consider a request by US Secretary of State John Kerry asking whether New Zealand would provide moral support for a military intervention in Syria.

The United States says there is now firm evidence that sarin gas, a chemical nerve agent, was used by Syrian government forces in an attack last month that killed more than 1400 people, and President Barack Obama is seeking approval from Congress for a limited military strike against Syrian targets.

Mr Key says Mr Kerry spoke directly to Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully about the matter on Saturday, and Mr McCully told him the New Zealand Government would need to carefully consider the request.

Mr Key says while any move to give moral support would be debated in Parliament, the ultimate decision whether or not to do so would be left to the executive.

Speaking on Checkpoint, Mr McCully said he told Mr Kerry New Zealand had a strong commitment to the multi-lateral process.

He also told Mr Kerry that despite the failure of the United Nations Security Council to make any progress to date, New Zealand wanted the matter reconsidered over the next few days.

Mr McCully says he spoke with other foreign ministers and officials at the weekend and it was clear that some had a severe lack of confidence in the UN Security Council process.

Labour Party foreign affairs spokesperson Phil Goff says he's unconvinced a military strike on targets in Syria would stop the use of chemical weapons there.

Mr Goff says New Zealand offering moral support in Syria would be an endorsement of whatever action the US takes.

He says a military strike would likely have unintended and counter productive circumstances such as more civilian losses.

US showing its indecision - analyst

Victoria University professor of Strategic Studies Robert Ayson told Checkpoint the longer the Obama administration takes to decide if it will attack the Assad regime the less support it will have.

Professor Ayson says the delay in action shows the Obama administration is indecisive.

He says in limited military action it is better for a country to strike earlier than later.

Former ambassador fears escalation

A former American ambassador to Syria, Ryan Crocker, says that if the US does take military action against the Syrian regime it will be overwhelmingly unpopular with the Arab public.

Mr Crocker, who served as ambassador in Syria from 1998 to 2001, says such strikes could have grave consequences in fragile countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

He told Nine to Noon Mr Obama faces a tough problem if he takes action. "Will the action change anything? My concern is that it will not - and having started down a road of military action, there will be growing pressure for an escalation."