3 Feb 2015

Britain urges NZ to join IS fight

8:39 pm on 3 February 2015

Britain is urging New Zealand to help the fight against Islamic State, as the Government continues to consider whether to send troops to help train the Iraqi army.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said after meeting Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today Britain was used to having New Zealand alongside it and he hoped it would become involved.

Today's talks today covered trade, New Zealand's role on the United Nations Security Council and the international response to the terrorist threat posed by IS.

Mr Hammond said he was aware there was a debate here about what role New Zealand should play in Iraq.

"Frankly we've...got used to New Zealand being there alongside us, alongside the US, the UK, Australia, as part of the family," he said.

"You have capable armed forces, highly inter-operable with ours, with the Australians, with the Americans. We would very much hope that New Zealand will be an active participant in a fight which is all of our fight."

Mr Hammond's comment prompted a tweet from government minister and United Future leader Peter Dunne asking: "Weren't ANZAC troops at Gallipoli, Passchendaele and the Somme part of the family too?"

Mr Key said he had made no promises to Mr Hammond about helping out in Iraq.

"I said the same thing to him I said to you yesterday, which is you know we are potentially prepared to send people. We'd have to be convinced of their safety and the location. We'd have to be convinced that we could do some good and we'd have to be convinced of our exit plan from Iraq," Mr Key said.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

Foreign Minister Murray McCully and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said a decision on New Zealand's involvement in training Iraqi troops was still some time off.

"Last year there are a number of sites that were under consideration. The Australians have been asked by the Iraqis to consider other sites. We are part of that consideration so that timeline for both countries has slipped out a little," Mr Brownlee said.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little remained worried by the Government's consideration of the matter.

"To go into a war to commit our people to a conflict zone and the high risk and the sort of barbaric treatment that clearly they would be at risk of we need to know what is the mission," he said.

"What are we being asked to do? What are we being asked to do that 10 years and $250 billion of American time and money hasn't been able to do?" Mr Little said.

But Mr Hammond said this time was different to previous interventions by Western nations in Iraq, that the current government in Iraq was trying to make the country more inclusive and was working to rebuild the capability of its armed forces.

"They are not asking us to go and fight their fight for them. They are willing to do it," he said.

"What they are asking us to do is provide them with the training, the technical resources and the equipment that they need to be able to take the fight to (IS) and regain control of their country. And it is very much in our interest that they should regain control of their country."

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