The Dominion Post
NZ troops expected to join ‘family’ fight
BRITAIN expects New Zealand to join the international coalition against Islamic militants as ‘‘part of the family’’, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says.
New Zealand troops will go to Iraq to train the local army, and a final decision on the details is expected from Cabinet ministers at the end of the month.
Last month, Prime Minister John Key said joining the 61 nations countering Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria was the ‘‘price of the club’’.
Hammond underscored that yesterday afternoon, following talks with Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully. But the Government insists it is not under pressure to enter the conflict.
‘‘Every nation in the coalition is making its contribution in a different way. Frankly, we’ve got used to New Zealand being there alongside us, alongside the US, the UK, Australia, as part of the family,’’ Hammond said.
‘‘We would very much hope that New Zealand will be an active participant in a fight which is all of our fight.’’
However, Labour leader Andrew Little – who is opposed to the deployment and also met Hammond yesterday – said that was not a valid argument. The public did not know enough about what was expected of New Zealand troops, he said.
‘‘We are an independent nation state, we are entitled to make decisions that are in our interests . . . simply saying we are part of a family, or part of a club, that’s not an argument about why to put our people in harm’s way.’’
Hammond said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government was rebuilding security forces and needed international help.
‘‘They are not asking us to fight their fight for them.’’
McCully denied there had been increased pressure to sign up since New Zealand won a seat on the Security Council last year.
At Parliament yesterday, Hammond presented the Speaker, David Carter, with a plaque bearing the names of New Zealand’s World War I Victoria Cross recipients.
He hoped the plaque would be an inspiration for future generations ‘‘because our partnership, forged in adversity and founded on a shared commitment to liberty, is as important today as ever’’.
The plaque will be incorporated in the remodelled Cenotaph complex, which should be completed before Anzac Day this year.