NZ Herald Article - 21 May 2013
Tuesday May 21, 2013
Foreign Minister Murray McCully met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington early today (NZ time) and most of their meeting was spent discussing the Middle East.
Mr McCully offered New Zealand's support towards the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, which could take the form of New Zealand peacekeepers taking part in an international force to run a buffer zone between the two states.
He said later that New Zealand was seen as a country that had had troops in the Sinai helping to maintain peace between Egypt and Israel for 31 years, and it would be turned to early for further support.
Mr Kerry had been extremely pleased to hear that New Zealand might be one of the countries that would be prepared to help, Mr McCully said later.
"I made the point directly to him but also publicly that the strongest possible US leadership is a pre-condition to any real progress on the Middle East peace process, but that doesn't mean that the US should be left to do all the heavy lifting by themselves.
"Mr Kerry posed for a picture with Mr McCully before the meeting, and made a brief statement saying: "Our friends in New Zealand are just that, a special relationship, 175 years of an active relationship. We're going to build upon the Wellington and Washington Declarations.
"New Zealand had been a partner in a lot of initiatives of interests, "particularly helping out in a place like Afghanistan," Mr Kerry said.
"They've been an enormous global partner. The regional issues, particularly the Korea Peninsular, the challenges in the South China Sea are important to all of us and we rely on our friends in New Zealand for the strength of the relationship, not just in the region but globally, and we share a lot of values and a lot of interests."
Straight after the meeting Mr Kerry headed to the Middle East for his fourth visit since taking over the job on February 1.
Mr McCully offered New Zealand's support in the eventuality that Mr Kerry achieves a breakthrough in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution.
"If we get into a situation where there is any Middle East peace process fashioned, clearly there will be a need for international support on the development and the security front."
The US Administration was also keen to do some capacity building in Palestine, and Mr McCully and Mr Kerry discussed that today.
"At this stage what we've agreed to do is to keep talking because we're not at a point where there's anything taking particular shape yet. But the fact that he's going back for a fourth time tells us he's deadly serious."
Mr McCully described Mr Kerry as having more of a sense of determination than a sense of optimism about the outcome.
The window in which to achieve a two-state solution was about 18 months to two years.
"He is giving this thing his best shot, and we should support him in that."
Mr McCully said he had invited Mr Kerry to New Zealand, and the US Secretary of State was keen to make a return visit having holidayed here in a private capacity in the past couple of years.
Thirteen countries in fourteen days. Fourteen countries if you count a brief overnight stopover in Sydney to meet with High Commissioner Martyn Dunne. First, a week in Africa, visiting South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Mauritius. Then Brussels for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Afghanistan contributing nations, followed by Lichtenstein, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Malta, San Marino and Italy.
Africa 15-22 AprilDay one in Botswana is a sensible way to start. Jet lag
is always severe after the trip to the African continent. But the Botswana
relationship is a special one. Arguably the success story of Africa, they have
been rewarded by being systematically removed from access to concessional
finance and other support measures. Having run a robust democracy since
independence in 1966, and wisely invested their diamond wealth in building
their economy, Botswana stands out as an African success story.
What they most need is access to good agricultural
institutions and systems to build those underdeveloped aspects of their
economy. Botswana's two million people consume about 48 million litres of milk
each year, but produce only about 4 million of that. This is just one of the
areas in which I hope New Zealand expertise can help in the immediate future.
Botswana's Foreign Minister, Phandu Skelemani, is one of
Africa 's most impressive statesmen and a key player in SADC, the Southern
African grouping that is wrestling with the challenges in Zimbabwe and
Madagascar during some difficult times.
Myself and Harold Liu Man Hin in front of New Zealand and Mauritian flags
Meeting with Namibian Deputy Foreign Minister, Hon Peya Mushelenga
After deferring a Forum Ministerial Contact Group visit to Fiji for several months, the MCG finally conducted a successful visit on Friday 12 April. Despite recent setbacks, the tone of the visit was positive. Differences over the treatment of the draft constitution prepared by the Ghai Commission and the decision not to proceed with the planned Constituent Assembly were expressed in a professional and respectful fashion. While the MCG is satisfied that elections will be held in Fiji in 2014 a question mark remains over how free and fair those elections will be.
That the MCG could conduct a successful visit after recent setbacks is a significant positive. The door is now open to practical support for election preparations and stepped up engagement over coming months
From left: Hon Edward Natapei - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu; the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu Hon Apisai Lelemia; the Hon Senator Matt Thistlewaite - Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs; Ratu Inoke Kubuabola; Hon Murray McCully; the Minister of Foriegn Affiars of Papua New Guinea Hon Rimbink Pato; and the Minister of Communication and Information Technology of Samoa Hon Tuisugaletaua Ali'imalemanu Aveau.
BAHRAIN -EGYPT - SAUDI ARABIA - JORDAN
Capital: ManamaPopulation: 1.2 millionMember of the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)Bahrain is one of the most diversified economies in the Persian Gulf. Its highly-developed transport and communication facilities make it home to many multinational firms.As overseas trips go, this is a tough one. Through the night to Dubai via Melbourne, then on to Bahrain in time to shower, suit up and conduct a day of meetings: Crown Prince, two deputy prime ministers followed by talks and dinner with Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid al Khalifa. Then out to the airport to catch a 1.00am flight to Cairo. Bahrain has faced significant challenges dealing with the Arab Spring but it appears there is now a more settled pathway forward. Not to be ignored is the huge gateway Bahrain provides into the fast-growing eastern seaboard of Saudi Arabia across the 25km causeway.
The first free Presidential elections in Egyptian history took place peacefully last year. For the first time in 60 years the military are not running the country.
Hit Cairo at 6.30am for another day of calls. Meet Arab League Secretary General for talks and signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation to formalise regular talks and a range of areas of cooperation. A reception attracts representatives of five of the political parties currently vying for votes in the upcoming election. Then a real bed for the first time since Saturday night (this is Tuesday evening).Despite serious security challenges shifting the Arab League meeting across town, we manage to see a good range of Arab foreign ministers. Then it's a 90 minutes trip across town to meet Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Khairat al Shater at the MB headquarters. I met Shater on a Cairo visit last year. He was the MB's original candidate for president, but was bowled out by the Court as a result of a few years spent as a guest in an Egyptian prison, courtesy of President Mubarak.Reputed to be the key player in the MB, Shater is deeply impressive - an orthodox economic thinker with a clear understanding of Egypt's economic challenges, beginning with a need to strike a deal with the IMF and other leaders whilst also trying to win an election. A visit by some of his key advisors will take place in the next few weeks to focus on New Zealand's reform experiences in the last century.Back to the central city for a meeting (re-located to avoid some activity around Tahrir Square) with former Arab League Secretary General, former Egyptian Foreign Minister and recent Presidential candidate Amr Moussa.Moussa, who has had a very distinguished career, is pitching for an accommodation amongst the key players in order to focus on the major internal challenges.
Capital: AnkaraPopulation: 75.6 million
New Zealand and Turkey have a close relationship founded on our shared experiences at Gallipoli in 1915. Turkey has land borders with two European and six Asian countries.Another early departure to fly to Istanbul , then on to Ankara. A wreath laying ceremony at the Attaturk memorial, then meetings with President Gul, and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Turkish Parliament before flying back to Ankara for talks and dinner with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu, who has come back early from London for the occasion.Davotoglu is a key player in the volatile politics of the region and a good friend. But Turkey is competing with us for a UN Security Council seat later next year. I am determined to keep the friendship strong, while our campaign should be equally strong. We are also working closely together on plans for the ANZAC centenary in 2015.
Capital: RiyadhPopulation: 28 millionBy far the largest of the GCC statesNew Zealand established diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in 1977. As a major dairy importer, it is our most significant economic market in the Middle East.
Another night traveling - this time to Saudi Arabia via Dubai for a day of important calls: the Crown Prince, the deputy Foreign Minister (Prince Saud, Foreign Minister for nearly 40 years, is in the US for further medical treatment) and the Agriculture Minister. We also call on the richest man in the region, Prince Alwaleed, reputed to be worth over $US26B, a member of the Royal family but also an independent commentator and investor.Saudi Arabia, with a population of 28 million is the big player in the six state Gulf Cooperation Council with whom we are attempting to secure a Free Trade Agreement. The potential in the GCC is huge, as will be evident from the GCC Strategy the Government will release soon.
MM with former Egyptian FM and recent presidential candidate Amr Moussa
When John Key wrapped up his first 2013 caucus meeting on Tuesday, he finished it saying: "Okay, that's about it - Murray, see you in December."
He was half joking about Cabinet minister Murray McCully, who has the busiest year yet ahead of him out of his four years as Foreign Minister.
Mr McCully has already been to Ethiopia for the African Union Council executive meeting, and the United Arab Emirates.
In the next couple of months he is heading back to Africa, back to the Middle East, to China, to Central Asia and next week will go to the Antarctic for the first time. He also hopes to get to Washington in the first six months of the year to meet the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry.
"It's certainly going to be the busiest year from a travel point of view," Mr McCully told the Herald in an interview this week.
And while some people see making the formal circuit of the world's capitals as an unnecessary indulgence, the minister describes it effectively as a traditional and essential part of the job.
"You've just got to make the calls ... a lot of foreign policy depends on people making the formal calls and having the formal meetings.
"It is a very structured and quite hierarchical sort of environment and you've just got to do the calls."
In between his visit to Africa last week and Antarctica next week, he has been meeting teams of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade division by division, "reviewing where we are at region by region so we can relatively informally make sure we are all working off the same page from the beginning of the year".
He appears to have all but forgotten, if not forgiven, the rebellion in the ranks of senior diplomats last year when a series of leaks revealed strong resistance to restructuring plans by chief executive John Allen.
"I've always had a high degree of confidence in the ministry," he said. "I think one or two people got carried away in the heat of battle and some of the things that were proposed made people feel very strongly. That doesn't excuse unprofessional behaviour. There is a process to do with that which is being run by the State Services."
Troubleshooter Paula Rebstock has been commissioned by the State Services Commission to investigate the leaks from the ministry and Mr McCully is distancing himself from that process.
"I made it very clear that we would just get on and do the business. That's what the taxpayers pay me to do and what they pay the ministry to do."
He hadn't seen the report and he did not expect to do so although he understood it was still going to be some time away from completion.
New Zealand's bid to gain a place on the United Nations Security Council in 2015-16 is taking up more of his time as the vote in October next year gets closer.
He plans to cover a lot of ground this year: "We have been fairly active so far but the intensity of these things just keeps lifting as the years go by so this year is going to be pretty busy and next year is going to be frantic."
Mr McCully has just reappointed former National leader Jim McLay as ambassador to the United Nations.
"The senior face that presents in New York is very important and he cuts a very good figure there representing New Zealand," Mr McCully said.
"He is a rare combination of having the seniority and bearing to be able to make an impact but also the command of the detail, to be across a lot of stuff that is pretty challenging."
Other major issues on the agenda this year include the pull-out of New Zealand's contribution in Afghanistan, and more particularly working out what sort of civilian support is left in place to help with agricultural projects, as well as the transitions in the Solomons and Timor Leste from defence support to civilian support.
He will oversee a continuing push to strengthen relations with Southeast Asia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on an Asean strategy, setting out plans to develop stronger ties in the region.
And he will work on cementing ties with the new faces in leadership teams in China and the United States.
Mike Moore, a former Labour Prime Minister and director-general of the World Trade Organisation, has just been reappointed New Zealand's Ambassador to Washington for another three years.
Mr McCully went to Ethiopia a year ago and attendance at the African Union foreign ministers' meeting is now an annual fixture in Mr McCully's diary, not just for campaigning purposes.
"Yes, we do need to do some work there for the Security Council but some of the fastest growing countries in the world are in Africa."
Over half of the world's undeveloped agricultural land was in Africa and New Zealand had only two diplomatic posts there, in South Africa and Cairo, and a Wellington-based ambassador in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"We are under-done in Africa and we have to do more."
The challenge there and in Asia was trying to get better representation without getting a bigger budget.
He said there had been interest at the African Union meeting in New Zealand's support last year for the United Nations resolution on Palestinian statehood. (United States and Canada voted against; Australia and Britain abstained). But he insisted that the vote in support had nothing to do with the bid to get on to the Security Council.
"The key to that decision was our long-term determination to be seen as fair-minded and balanced and constructive in our approach," he said.
"And when you add it it up, the fact is that preserving that brand dictated that we should vote for it in the circumstances." It could be argued that New Zealand's brand was what it offered "front and centre" for the Security Council.
"But I've made it clear we are not going to go casting our vote or changing our policies in a simple attempt to win votes.
"I think our brand is very important. It's a long-term investment that New Zealand Governments and New Zealanders have made. We need to preserve it and enhance it."
Spain and Turkey are also seeking election for the two seats open to the grouping known as "Western Europe and others" but Australia's successful bid last year for a seat from 2013-14 could count against New Zealand.
Asked about the campaign to support Trade Minister Tim Groser as director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Mr McCully said that Mr Groser was running it as a "very personalised" campaign.
"Our pitch is not that it's New Zealand's turn or our region's turn or any of the considerations you might normally take into account. This is very much a campaign built around the personal attributes and experience of and status of Tim Groser so it is a very personalised campaign that is being run."
Ethiopia, Abu Dhabi
The final overseas trip for 2012 is a quick whistle stop tour of the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu with brief transits in Samoa. Majuro, capital of the Marshalls (RMI), will host next year’s Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting. A six hour Hercules trip from Samoa, RMI and its Northern Pacific neighbours are the least connected geographically of the Forum states. For our Tarawa-based ambassador it involved a four day trek through Fiji and Honolulu to be there in advance of my team.
Good visit to Kiribati but major challenges remain despite New Zealand stepping up efforts in recent years.Excellent meeting with President Tong (also met with most of his ministers and other key figures) reflecting the substantial lift in New Zealand activity in Kiribati in the last two years. Unveiled a plaque at the Marine Training Centre to mark 30 years of New Zealand support. New Zealand can be very proud of the MTC - it is a world-class facility training seafarers. They send home over $10m in remittances every year. The Kiribati Cabinet has now agreed to merge the MTC with the Fisheries Training Centre also funded by New Zealand. With 3.55 million square kilometres of EEZ, fisheries is the big opportunity for Kiribati. While there I inspected a new tuna loining plant capable of sending both frozen and chilled tuna to Japan. The challenge now is to get throughput above the 10 tonnes a day, which is the break even level. We will be stepping up our support for locals trying to upgrade equipment to meet the standards required for the new factory.The place is also tidier than during my last visit in 2010 - partly the result of New Zealand-funded solid waste disposal systems including refuse trucks, old car collection and crushing, and can and plastic recycling. The big problem is sanitation. Beaches are still toilets of choice and the pollution level is terrible.Plans are developed for a large subdivision on state-owned land designed to provide climate-proof dwellings. But the usual budget blowouts will make this a tough call when the final numbers are available.The main road through Tarawa is unbelievable. Work on a World Bank and ADB project to do a major upgrade seem to have floundered on bureaucratic process. Clearly the pollution levels are not helped by large causeways which impeded flushing. Sooner or later someone is going to need to blow some holes and let the lagoon flush properly. A good project for our army engineers perhaps.
Haven't been to Tuvalu since 2009. Population about 10,000. Isolated by poor air connections. Last year they were hit by severe water shortages caused by drought. One of Tuvalu's islands, Nukulaelae, was down to the last 90 litres of water for a population of 300. New Zealand was fast out of the blocks sending a Hercules with water and desalination gear. This is very well remembered by grateful Tuvaluans.Not a great destination for the luxury traveller - hot running water does not feature on the list of comforts. Overwhelming feature is vulnerability to rising sea levels. Pretty much all of the main island of Funafuti is washed over by spring tides. Tuvalu struggles to find a long-term source of income. With about 750,000 square kilometres of EEZ, clearly fisheries is one. The Tuvalu Trust Fund, currently holding $128m, will provide some long-term support.As is common in the region, the cost of imported diesel for electricity is a big drain on the economy. Next March we are, with the EU, hosting a renewable energy conference to try to marshal donor support. If we can join others in funding a mix of solar and wind initiatives for Funafuti it will make a huge difference to their budget accounts as well as the environment.Key project at the moment is a ship to shore development which will vastly improve shipping between each of the nine islands. In my meeting with PM Willy Telavi, I committed $2.2m to complete the whole network. Should be complete next year.
Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers representing 51 countries are meeting in Vientiane this week for the biennial ASEM summit. ASEM is a gathering of Asian and European Union leaders over two days, alternating between European and Asian capitals. I attended the last ASEM meeting in Brussels two years ago, shortly after we had been admitted to membership, along with Australia and Russia. After two days in Vientiane I will make a formal visit to Vietnam for meetings with my counterpart and calls on leaders.
I pushed to secure New Zealand membership of ASEM two years ago because any gathering of European and Asian leaders inevitably involves conversations that New Zealand would want to be engaged in. As with all major international meetings at senior level, there are significant opportunities for bilateral meetings on the margins.-MM
Papua New GuineaThis week's official visit to Papua New Guinea takes place as the country enters a new era. The newly-elected government of Prime Minister Peter O'Niell is charting a new course following the years of Somare leadership. The country's economy is growing at nearly 10 per cent on the back of huge gas and minerals developments. And the country's new leaders have made it clear that they greatly value the prospect of closer relations with New Zealand.The three-day visit will include meetings with Prime Minister O'Neill, Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, Trad Minister Richard Mari, Treasurer Don Polye and Planning Minister Charles Abel as well as meeting with the Cabinet Economic Committee and Opposition Leader Belden Namah.A one-day visit to Mt Hagen in the Highlands, where Foreign Minister Pato will host our Foreign Minister's talks will also provide a chance to look at rural developments issues first hand.A small business delegation will take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen business ties.The scope to expand trade and economic ties is huge. The PNG Government has a particular desire for New Zealand input in the development of geothermal energy and commercial agriculture.-MM
The Indonesia-New Zealand Joint Ministerial Commission with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa provided an opportunity for an annual stocktake on this important relationship.It is not just a conversation about the huge trade and economic opportunities that exist following the ratification of the AANZFTA. Over 70,000 students travel abroad for educational purposes each year from Indonesia. Last year we attracted 600. There is huge upside potential for a safe, friendly country like NZ. Our aid spend is heavily focused on agriculture and geothermal initiatives, both areas in which there is a strong demand for our world class expertise. The key here is to link a small aid investment with an enduring commercial presence from NZ businesses.A key goal going forward must be direct air links. The Air NZ service to Bali over the holiday season has been a step forward. But a direct Jakarta service is a key to unlocking the potential in this relationship.The other key aspect to our talks was the wider relationship with ASEAN. In the same way in which Indonesia looks to NZ to facilitate contact with the Pacific, we value Indonesia's insights into ASEAN developments. Recent years have seen Indonesia take an increasingly strong leadership role in regional affairs and I publicly commended Marty Natalegawa for his personal leadership, and quiet but effective regional diplomacy
Meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa prior to the 5th Indonesia-New Zealand Joint Minsiterial Commission on 9 October.
Training on Usain Bolt's home track, with NZ High Commissioner to Jamaica Andrew Needs, Kingston
With Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Havana
New York, United States of America
The 67th General Assembly of the United Nations commenced in New York this week. Attended by over 100 heads of state and government, and over 100 foreign ministers, the gathering is an important opportunity to advance New Zealand's relationships across a range of interests. Foremost amongst these is the promotion of our campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2015-16. With two years to go, New Zealand is well placed, but we face a tough contest against two very much larger players, Turkey and Spain.-MM