16 Apr 2018

PM's response to Syria should be stronger, Bridges says

9:49 am on 16 April 2018

The Prime Minister's response to the strikes on Syria should have been stronger, the leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges, says.

Simon Bridges will stand for National Party leader.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's comments on Syria underplay the seriousness of the situation. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday said she accepts why action was necessary after joint US, British and French military forces hit the capital, Damascus, targeting alleged chemical weapons sites.

Ms Ardern said she was advised of the action a couple of hours before it took place and she hoped they would now return to the negotiating table.

"Ultimately no one wants to be in this situation, the use of chemical weapons in this case is absolutely abhorrent, we have strongly condemned it.

"Our hope would have been that we could have used the UN Security Council to find resolution, Russia stopped that bid from being possible, so under those circumstances we understand why this action has taken place, we hope though that we can return back to the UN to try and prevent further harm for civilians."

National Party leader Simon Bridges said her comments underplay the seriousness of the situation.

Mr Bridges said Ms Ardern should have said she supported the attacks to make sure New Zealand's allies feel supported in their action.

"Merely 'accepting' it is not strong enough," he told Morning Report.

"We need to look where our friends are like Turnbull and Trudeau who showed support for the strikes."

Mr Bridges said he supported the action taken by the US, British and French military forces.

He implied the government might be taking a softer approach to appease Russia, which deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is pursuing a free trade deal with.

Yesterday, however, National Party spokesperson for foreign affairs Todd McClay said he supported Ms Adern's statement on the issue.

"The government has made a strong statement and the National Party supports that," he said.

Mr McClay said it was important for all parties to unite in their condemnation of the Syrian government which had "brutally murdered their own citizens with gas".

He said he hoped the New Zealand government would continue to be outspoken on the issue.