23 Sep 2016

PM confirms NZ would share intelligence with Iraq

6:00 pm on 23 September 2016

The Prime Minister has confirmed New Zealand would share intelligence with Iraq in certain circumstances.

Prime Minister John Key has delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly ahead of the Security Council meeting on Syria he will chair tomorrow.

John Key delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly before he chaired the Security Council meeting on Syria. Photo: United Nations

John Key was asked for more assistance in intelligence gathering when he met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the United Nations earlier in the week.

Before leaving New York, Mr Key spoke to RNZ about Iraq and the ongoing conflict in Syria.

He said New Zealand was gathering intelligence in Iraq.

"If we thought there was going to be a particular situation for instance that affected Taji air base or if we picked up something that was really going to put at risk the people we were training, yeah, I think we would share that information. We have a responsibility to do that."

But he said New Zealand's intelligence gathering in the area went no further than that.

"Are we involved outside of Iraq and are we trying, you know, to be part of these sorts of planning groups targeting particular missions in a place like Syria?

"The answer's no. We are not doing that work. That's not our aim but when we're in a theatre in a place like Iraq we gather intelligence as best we can to protect our people."

Mr Key reiterated that New Zealand gathered intelligence as part of the Five Eyes group, which also included Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States.

He said this country received more information from other members of Five Eyes than it gathered.

"But, you know, from time to time New Zealand's really been quite a significant contributor of important nuggets of information."

Mr Key, who chaired a UN Security Council meeting on Syria during the week, warned the worse-case scenario in the region could get "pretty bad".

But he said Mr al-Abadi was confident things were improving in Iraq.

"They think the number of ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq] fighters that are there are dropping quite dramatically. When you push him where they're going, the answer's probably across the border to Syria to be blunt. So I think Syria's getting worse and Iraq's getting better.

"In the wider region the issues are potential instability. If you had real flow-on effects here people can see Turkey and other countries in the region are at risk with the sheer numbers of people and those sorts of things."

Mr Key said that was why the international community had to continue working at finding a solution to the conflict in Syria.

"The only long-term successful way through this is an agreed diplomatic answer. I mean if it were as simple as taking out, you know, a particular person or a particular group it would have happened a long time ago."

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