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Syrian setback `must be put aside': Key

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/09/2016

Prime Minister John Key wants world leaders to set aside the latest incident in the Syrian war as he tries to broker a solution to the conflict.

He's facing a tricky and difficult task since tensions escalated following a US-led airstrike that is reported to have killed as many as 90 Syrian soldiers and wounded about 100 others.

Mr Key is due to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday to discuss the Syrian crisis.

He told reporters on Monday he understood feelings were running high over the airstrike.

"The requirement to find some way through this crisis has to outweigh that," Mr Key said.

"The Americans got it wrong. They've been quite upfront in saying they got it wrong. Like everything in life, you have to put those things to one side."

Mr Key is in New York for UN leaders' week and with New Zealand coming towards the end of its presidency of the Security Council, as chair he has invited council leaders to discuss Syria.

"It is the most devastating crisis of our time," he said in a video address before his trip.

"There's an urgent need to end the conflict and to address the humanitarian suffering that it has caused.

"This means having an honest discussion about what's happening and what needs to be done.

"There are no guarantees or quick fixes but the Security Council cannot stand back."

Tensions between Russia and the US escalated following the airstrike.

Russia says it jeopardises a ceasefire and was "on the boundary between criminal negligence and connivance with Islamic State terrorists".

The US has acknowledged coalition fighter jets carried it out, believing they were striking as Islamic State forces, and says Russia is "grandstanding".

Foreign Minister Murray McCully, also in New York with Mr Key, says there is a short window of opportunity.

"Given the proximity of the US presidential elections it could be many months and many more tragic deaths if we can't keep this process on the rails, so we've got to invest heavily in achieving that," he told RNZ.

Since 2011, more than 300,000 people have been killed and nearly 11 million people, half Syria's population, have been displaced during the civil war.

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