15 Mar 2016

NZ hopes for peace talks following Russia's withdrawal

2:10 pm on 15 March 2016

Russia's withdrawal of troops from Syria is a positive move, but New Zealand is still waiting to see how the situation plays out, Prime Minister John Key says.

John Key during caucus run 1.03.16

Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to start withdrawing the "main part" of its forces from Syria, saying the intervention had largely achieved its objectives.

Mr Key said New Zealand would wait to see how the situation played out.

John Key and Vladimir Putin.

John Key and Vladimir Putin in 2012. Photo: RNZ

"He's [Putin] leaving some air-strike capability there but our hope is that that will give some momentum to the peace talks that are taking place in Geneva.

"In a sense this could be quite an important day today but we'll just have to see how things go."

In terms of the bilateral relationship between Russia and New Zealand, Mr Key said Russia's Syria operation has had some impact on New Zealand companies exporting goods to Russia.

The Russian economy is weak, and money is short, he said.

"The big issue that Fonterra tell me isn't so much access to the Russian market now, it's getting paid.

"Even the military strikes that Vladmir Putin's been having in Syria and the amount of people he's been having dedicated to Syria is costing him a fortune, and the Russian economy is very, very weak."

President Putin just did not have a lot of money to throw around, said Mr Key.

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