May 23, 2012 (TSR) – A day after confirming Kiwi troops’ early exit from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Murray McCully was in New York pushing New Zealand’s case to sit with the world’s most powerful nations.
The Government is trying to join the 15-nation United Nations Security Council and McCully today met Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon at the organisation’s headquarters.
The half-hour meeting was not long to push the case for joining the UN’s most powerful arm.
“Of course the Secretary-General has to be quite careful about those discussions, but I think everyone here is aware that we have ambitions,” McCully said.
The minister was fresh from the Nato conference in Chicago where he confirmed next year’s withdrawal of New Zealand troops from Afghanistan, 12 months earlier than many other coalition forces.
“Our early withdrawal is being welcomed and in some cases urged by the international community,” McCully said.
New Zealand is seeking Security Council admission from 2015, as a voice for Pacific nations.
Both Spain and Turkey are also campaigning, and with three countries there are only two positions available on the council.
Not making international campaigning any easier are the $24 million cuts to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Every foreign service around the world is under a bit of pressure today,” McCully said.
But he says there are positive signs, as the UN values New Zealand’s international contributions.
Just today, five Kiwi troops are on their way to Syria to join a force of unarmed UN observers.
New Zealand closes Swedish Embassy to cut costs
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully also announced last week the closure of the Stockholm embassy in Sweden as part of $10 million of savings in the Ministry’s European posts.
The Stockholm post was opened by the Clark government in 2008 and downsized by the current government in 2009.
“New Zealand enjoys an excellent relationship with Sweden and with its Scandinavian neighbours, but in today’s world it is not always necessary to have a diplomatic presence to maintain such a relationship,” Mr McCully says.
Here is a summary of background material provided to New Zealand Cabinet on their offshore footprint issues.
“Sweden does not have an embassy in New Zealand and I am confident that we can manage the relationship through an accreditation.”
The closure will be accompanied by other economies that will save about $10 million per year among New Zealand’s European posts, including moving into less expensive accommodation.
“The move is part of a series of decisions that will enable the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to meet the government’s expectations of a $24 million efficiency dividend and then manage within a flatline budget for the next two years.
“In turn, this has triggered a resource reallocation based upon change to New Zealand’s current and future foreign policy and trade priorities.”
In addition to making a formal decision regarding Stockholm, New Zealand Cabinet has been briefed on the modified change programme for the Ministry.