New Zealand reaches out to Israel to restore ties
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New Zealand reaches out to Israel to restore ties

Newly appointed foreign minister seeks to reset relationship broken off after Wellington sponsored anti-Israel UN resolution

British Foreign Secretary Johnson (r) chats with New Zealand Minister of Defense Gerry Brownlee prior to a working lunch for the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Foreign Ministers, at the U.S. Department of State, in Washington, DC on July 21, 2016. (State Department Photo/Public Domain)
British Foreign Secretary Johnson (r) chats with New Zealand Minister of Defense Gerry Brownlee prior to a working lunch for the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Foreign Ministers, at the U.S. Department of State, in Washington, DC on July 21, 2016. (State Department Photo/Public Domain)

Recently appointed New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to restore diplomatic relations with Israel.

Brownlee received his ministerial warrant on Tuesday, Israel’s Independence Day, and hours later wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get the relationship back on track.

“I’ve sent a letter to Mr. Netanyahu yesterday firstly congratulating them on their national day but expressing a desire for the Israeli-New Zealand relationship to get back on track and to do that by recognizing that we’ve got synergies and innovation and agriculture and various other things like that,” he told local media.

Brownlee confirmed there is further work to be done but remains resolute around the importance of restoring the relationship to its prior strength.

Israel in December withdrew its ambassador from New Zealand and postponed travel rights of New Zealand’s ambassador to Israel, based in Turkey, after New Zealand co-sponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Netanyahu was angry at New Zealand’s involvement in the UN resolution, which passed unanimously. The Israeli prime minister called then-Foreign Minister Murray McCully and reportedly threatened to interpret New Zealand’s sponsorship as a “declaration of war.”

He also leveled diplomatic sanctions at other countries that supported the measure, including canceling meetings and recalling ambassadors.

Brownlee says he expects the letter to enable the respective foreign ministries to start discussions with a view toward re-establishing a diplomatic connection.

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