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Frustration at the inability of the United Nations to resolve conflicts has prompted the government to consider powers to implement “autonomous sanctions”, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced.
Speaking at the Otago Foreign Policy School in Dunedin, he said New Zealand needed to be able impose sanctions against countries such as Syria outside of the UN system.
At present New Zealand can only impose sanctions if they have been approved by the UN.
But the use of the veto power by Russia and China in the UN Security Council meant New Zealand and other countries were helpless in taking their own measures against Syria.
Mr McCully described the situation in Syria as a civil war and he criticised the UN for being “impotent in the face of mounting brutality” by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
“In an environment in which the Security Council appears to have difficulty agreeing… New Zealand needs to have the capacity to impose sanctions outside the UN framework,” he said.
This would be done through legislation similar to that approved by Australia last year.
Mr McCully also revealed New Zealand was no longer importing oil from Iran, which is subject to sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union over its nuclear arms programme.
The foreign policy school considered Middle East policies at the weekend, with academic speakers from Israel, Canada, Singapore and, through a video link, the Nato headquarters in Brussels.
Mr McCully’s term as foreign minister has been noted for its emphasis on the Gulf region and Africa as areas of high potential for increased trade and the use of New Zealand agricultural technology.
He told NBR ONLINE that New Zealand under-represented in diplomatic terms there compared with the existing level of trade and compared with representation in Europe.
He said the new post in Abu Dhabi had been highly successful and hinted the next post would be opened in Qatar, which recently sent a diplomatic mission to this country to discuss its food security programme.
New Zealand also has diplomatic posts in Cairo, Ankara, Riyadh and Teheran.