You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Diplomatic relations with Israel restored

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/06/2017 Peter Wilson and Karen Sweeney

Israel's ambassador to New Zealand is returning to Wellington, ending a six-month diplomatic rift over a United Nations resolution which condemned continued Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Prime Minister Bill English repaired relations with a letter to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but says he didn't apologise for New Zealand's actions at the UN.

"No, we didn't apologise for co-sponsoring the resolution," he told reporters in the Cook Islands on Wednesday.

"What we do express regret about is that it disrupted our relationship with Israel - it's a relationship we value.

"Israel was sufficiently unhappy about it that they withdrew diplomatic representation."

Mr English, who also spoke to Mr Netanyahu by phone, said they didn't get into a policy discussion.

"I just expressed our concern about the state of the relationship, and that it meant they didn't have diplomatic representation."

The Israeli ambassador will return to Wellington in the next few days, according to a report from Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has described Mr English's letter as a "clarification".

"The letter indicated that New Zealand wanted to resume diplomatic ties with Israel, and regretted the fallout," he said.

The resolution was passed when Murray McCully, Mr Brownlee's predecessor, was foreign minister.

Earlier on Wednesday Labour leader Andrew Little called on Mr English to clearly state whether New Zealand still supported the UN resolution.

"As a long standing friend of New Zealand, Israel should accept that at times friends have differences," he said.

The Green Party saw the letter as an indication the government was "wavering on a legitimate, principled stance".

"The prime minister's decision to write and `express regret' to Israel for condemning its illegal settlements shows that trade, not principle, guides Bill English on the international stage," said global affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham.

The UN resolution passed in the 15-member Security Council because the United States, under the administration of former President Barack Obama, did not wield its veto power and instead abstained, breaking with its long-standing tradition of diplomatically shielding Israel at the international body.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon