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The Middle East region is an area where major international political and economic challenges are being played out. These tensions are shaping the global environment in which New Zealand operates.
As a responsible international citizen New Zealand has sought over a long period to play a constructive role in efforts to deal with sources of tensions and conflicts in the Middle East. New Zealand’s contributions have been made mainly through peacekeeping deployments, targeted aid assistance and diplomatic support for international negotiations, and through bilateral relations with governments in the region.
Since 2000, the New Zealand Government has made unprecedented efforts to develop a dialogue with governments in the Middle East. New Zealand leaders have been frequent visitors, and this has been reciprocated in the growing number of high-level visits from the region. New Zealand’s objectives through this dialogue have been to support regional and broader international interests in peace and stability, and to build bilateral relationships that provide increased opportunities for exchanges of mutual benefit, such as trade. They have resulted in the conclusion of a number of agreements that commit the bilateral partners to working together to this end.
These streams of New Zealand policy have come together since 2001 in a series of New Zealand Defence Force deployments to Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Iraq, the New Zealand Aid programme's humanitarian and development assistance and enhanced political contacts. New Zealand’s contributions have supported broader international efforts to restore stability and security in order to facilitate reconstruction and reconciliation in post-conflict situations. In the case of Iraq, New Zealand’s efforts supported humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts.
Around 200 New Zealand Defence personnel are currently serving in various locations in the Middle East. The United Nations Treaty Supervisory Organisation (UNTSO) is New Zealand’s longest standing peacekeeping mission. Our contributions consist chiefly of military advisers serving in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. A New Zealander, Major-General Clive Lilley has been the Head of UNTSO since 2004. Twenty-six New Zealand personnel are currently deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai helping to ensure compliance with the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt. New Zealand was one of the initial contributors to the MFO. In Afghanistan, the main New Zealand Defence Force deployment is the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Bamyan Province. New Zealand personnel are also serving in the headquarters of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and assisting in the training of the Afghan National Army.
New Zealand provided $20 million in development assistance to Afghanistan to June 2006, with a further $15 million allocated for an additional three-year programme of support in the areas of sustainable rural livelihoods, governance, human rights, and maternal and child health programming in Bamyan Province. The New Zealand Aid progamme also funds New Zealand’s contribution to the police training and mentoring project, which comprises three senior officers.
Since March 2003 New Zealand has contributed just over $NZ14 million in development assistance to Iraq to support the election process and for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance through UN agencies, NGOs, the ICRC and NZDF. New Zealand has a NZDF Military Liaison Officer deployed to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
New Zealand will continue to provide assistance for the essential and well-regarded humanitarian programmes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). New Zealand also provides core funding for a number of other humanitarian and international voluntary agencies - including the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Red Cross Family - all of which play a key role in the provision and delivery of humanitarian assistance in the region.
New Zealand has embassies in Afghanistan, Egypt (Cairo), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh), Turkey (Ankara),Iran (Tehran) and the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) [all external links], with cross accreditations to Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. The New Zealand Consulate-General in Dubai is also the regional office for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.