INDEPENDENT NEWS

Minister of Foreign Affairs comment on the Salisbury attacks

Published: Mon 10 Sep 2018 05:09 PM
In light of recent reporting, we are proactively releasing the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ responses to a series of questions on New Zealand’s position following the UK’s investigation into the Salisbury chemical attack. These were provided on Friday, and reiterate New Zealand’s support for the UK, and condemnation of Russia’s involvement.
The following comment can also be attributed to Foreign Minister Winston Peters:
“Further information shared with the Government solidifies New Zealand’s position of welcoming the progress made in identifying the individuals accused of deploying the nerve agent. In short, we believe the conclusion of this investigation that there is a prima facie case for the charges.”
“Any perception the New Zealand government has not been strong and supportive of the international community are misguided. New Zealand Government has consistently supported the United Kingdom and international community in condemning the Salisbury attack and Russia’s involvement.”
Stacy Kirk – Stuff
Here is my list of questions regarding New Zealand's position on the Salisbury attack charges that have been laid:
New Zealand has not yet joined the international community in condemning the attack and Russia's involvement in it - do we?
The New Zealand Government has consistently supported the United Kingdom and international community in condemning the Salisbury attack and Russia’s involvement.
On 13 March the Government issued a statement expressing grave concerns over the Salisbury attack and said the question of how this chemical agent was transported from Russia warranted urgent international investigation.
On 16 March the Government issued a statement saying it stood alongside the UK. It said there had been no plausible explanation that the nerve agent came anywhere else, and described the Russian reaction as cynical, sarcastic and inadequate.
On 27 March the Government issued a statement which said if there were undeclared Russian intelligence agents in New Zealand they would have been expelled, keeping in line with other international reactions. Our partners expressed their understanding there might not be anyone that fits this profile to expel.
On 29 March in a Government statement New Zealand announced it would impose travel restrictions on individuals expelled by other countries. The statement noted New Zealand’s views had been conveyed in media statements and in direct discussions with the Russian government, both in Wellington and Moscow.
On 6 September the Government issued a statement welcoming the progress of the UK Salisbury inquiry in identifying the individuals and taking the steps being taken to bring them to court.
In regard to the two named individuals - the alleged Russian GRU agents - and the specific claims from both PM Theresa May and British Security Minister Ben Wallace that the attack was clearly sanctioned at the highest levels of the Russian Government: Does New Zealand stand behind the UK on those claims?
We believe the UK investigation has been robust and thorough and we have every confidence in its conclusions. Further information shared with the Government solidifies New Zealand’s position of welcoming the progress made in identifying the individuals accused of deploying the nerve agent.
In the early statement, the Minister said New Zealand was justified in waiting for the evidence, which has now arrived. In spite of the low likelihood that it will ever get tested in a Court - does New Zealand stand behind the UK in believing that evidence, regardless?
Yes. The two individuals identified are to be subject to international arrest warrants through Interpol. New Zealand will play its role in monitoring international fugitives.
In short, we believe the conclusion of this investigation that there is a prima facie case for the charges.
NZ obviously works with the OPCW and other countries on strengthening the ban on chemical weapons - will we be offering any further assistance to the UK in anything to do with Salisbury, or does the minister expect there to be any further conversations with counterparts over this in the upcoming trip to the UN General Assembly and beyond?
New Zealand has, and will, continue to work with the OPCW and other countries to strengthen the ban on chemical weapons.
Reflecting that commitment, New Zealand has recently joined the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, launched in Paris earlier this year.
By helping to establish responsibility for incidents where chemical weapons have been used, the Partnership, which now has around 40 members, will help to hold individuals, groups and governments to account for their actions.

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