Events around New Zealand’s military commemoration, on April 25, throw into relief some new possibilities for relating to the wider world.
The commemoration, called ANZAC Day, recalls the tragic loss of many New Zealand and other lives in Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915-16. There, along with Australians as fellow members of the British Empire, New Zealanders fought alongside British and French soldiers against the Turks. “ANZAC” stands for “Australia, New Zealand Army Corp”.
There were terrible casualties: 2721 New Zealanders, 44,000 from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians, and 87,000 Turks. The campaign lasted about 8 months (official Australian website on ANZAC DAY).
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key attended the ceremony at Gallipoli, after which he was to proceed on a Middle East trade tour. Then an air force helicopter crashed back in New Zealand, killing 3 service personnel. So he cut the trip short to return home for the funerals (Key heads home after loss of Iroquois)
He was to have gone on from Turkey to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to lead a 90 strong New Zealand trade delegation that was also making a wider sweep through the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman (PM Key quits Gulf trade mission after fatal helicopter tragedy)
Questions have been asked as to whether he should have so prioritized a military funeral in New Zealand, or left that to a deputy and supported the development of New Zealand Middle East trade (readers comments)
Opportunities Taken and Missed (So Far)
I think that a much bigger issue than military funerals or trade is being missed here. It is to do with the significant new opportunities for constructive diplomatic activities that have been created by President Obama’s very recent Nuclear Security Summit (13-14 April) – opportunities to collaborate with the United States and many others to help create a peaceful, nuclear-free world.
I would like to propose that New Zealand decision-makers like Mr Key, and his advisers, could usefully look at how to follow up on such opportunities by building a new relationship with Turkey based on the following factors:
Brokering nuclear-free solutions: what President Obama wants, and most people in the world want
So I think it is a pity that John Key departed so hastily from Turkey to attend the military funeral in New Zealand after signing a trade-related deal with his Turkish counterpart. There were other very important matters that they could also have explored in depth.
There was, and there still remains, an opportunity to forge a new kind of partnership for peace with the Turkey that New Zealand fought against in world war one.
If John Key has not himself yet begun discussing this, hopefully New Zealand’s embassy at Ankara will be soon showing a keen interest in Turkish mediation efforts, asking if it could be briefed on them, and indicating a willingness to support them in any possible way.
It has already been proposed on village-connections (January 2009) that New Zealand work through its embassy in Teheran to help strengthen communication channels between Iran and the United States (First Winston Peters and North Korea – now, Murray McCully and Iran?)
It could be very productive now for the New Zealand government in Wellington to instruct its embassies in Tehran, Ankara and Washington to engage in communication with relevant officials and politicians about Iran-United States and relations, and how communication between these nations might be improved. All of which would also enhance New Zealand’s international profile, its ability to make high-level contacts and its prospects for increased, mutually beneficial trade with both the United States and the Middle East – but that is a whole other subject.
Note: the previous labour government has already engaged in nuclear-free liaison between North Korea and the United States. (Welcome, Mr US Ambassador David Huebner – open letter by John Gallagher)
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