6 Jan 2016

Govt ignoring Saudi executions over trade - Peters

10:20 am on 6 January 2016

The New Zealand government is turning a blind eye to Saudi executions as it wants trade at any cost, former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says.

Winston Peters on the bridge at Parliament.

The government needs to be clear about what is acceptable in international human rights, says Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Kuwait has cut diplomatic ties with Iran as a regional row over the weekend executions of 47 people, including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, deepens.

The New Zealand government said it did not agree with the killings but would not say if it would affect trade deal talks.

Mr Peters said trade deals had benefited importers, and that was causing debt to New Zealand.

Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among those executed on the weekend. Photo: AFP

"We are obsessed with our spaghetti bowl of trade deals that have cost us, in terms of fairness, an enormous amount," he said.

"Nearly every one of them has seen an explosion of imports to this country and an imbalance between what we import and what we export."

The Government should make it clear what was acceptable in international human rights, and what was not, Mr Peters said.

Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesman David Shearer said the government should speak out on human rights abuses, but it should not cut off its nose to spite its face.

He said breaking ties with the Middle East kingdom would reduce the influence New Zealand had.

"You want to be very sure that, you know, it's going to have some effect because you lose an opportunity to sit with Saudi representatives and actually express your dissatisfaction about their policies."

Mr Shearer said Labour did not condone the killings but many countries New Zealand trades with still used capital punishment.

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