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Still pro Putin, but Winston Peters says a Russia trade deal is off the table – for now

21/04/2018

Peters continues to push for a FTA with Russia. The reasoning is never given. The media do not seem to probe why, a politician who has been anti FTAs for years, is so keen on this deal.

Stacey Kirk at Stuff reports

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has confirmed he has talked about a Russian free trade deal with European leaders, but says there is no possibility in the current climate.

While a deal was off the agenda now, it did not mean forever and European leaders were pragmatic about that if Russia ever came into line.

Then surprisingly Kirk reports:

But Peters said it was a moot point in the wake of months of Russian aggression that included a nerve agent attack in the British city of Salisbury, global cyber warfare and the use of a veto to prevent independent investigators getting into Syria to assess the site of a chemical attack.

“It doesn’t actually matter because if you’re engaging or assisting a party that is involved in a chemical weapon attack then all such progress must stop right there,” Peters said.

“But it does not mean that if they come to their senses, that it may not be something in the future. But it’s not on our agenda.”

Does this mean Peters believes Russia is guilty. Has he moved beyond acceptance? Why was he not questioned on this? His reported comments suggest he is no longer casting doubt on Russian involvement in Salisbury. This is a volte face from his reported earlier comments.

Peters has been in Europe on a separate tour, complementary to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s. He’s been meeting ministerial-level representatives of the UK and the EU, including British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

His tour follows a diplomatic controversy over efforts to reignite Russian free trade talks, which have since been put on ice after the EU and the UK said they would take a dim view when it came to negotiating their own deals.

It would seem that Peters has been on a damage limitation exercise. Trouble is it is doubtful that Peters is capable of making anything totally clear. Opaque has always seemed his default setting. Again no probing by the media of what transpired in reality. No, our media are obsessed with reporting on Saint Jacinda and her photo ops.

“The thing is about the Europeans they’re very flexible and Angela Merkel actually spelled that our herself,” Peters said. “We have to deal with the whole world and try and bring them around.

What did he mean here? Bring them around to what? Again no detail.

“Right now we’re talking to North Korea through the back door for the United States – this is dramatic stuff and we need to do that.”

What! On what basis and for who?

Ardernsaid a potential FTA did not feature in any of her discussions with the leaders of France, Britain and Germany.

“It was not raised in any of the meetings I’ve had and obviously the outcome of each of those has been they are supportive of New Zealand’s endeavour to have a mandate on the 22nd of May,” she said.

This is confusing. Is Ardern talking about Russia here, or about EU and UK FTAs or both?

Meanwhile, questions over Russian spying in New Zealand and an alleged attack in Auckland more than a decade ago have continued to be raised. Both Peters and the Prime Minister have questioned the claims of Boris Karpichkov.

The former senior KGB agent spent 15 months in New Zealand in 2006 and 2007 after working as a double agent in the 1990s. He says he was walking down Auckland’s Queen St when someone threw powder in his face and he later became seriously unwell.

But Ardern said there was very little evidence to be able to investigate the claims, and there was no indication a Salisbury-style attack could happen in New Zealand.

Naive

Then

She would not comment on whether there were Russian spies in New Zealand. “What I would say is we’ve been very clear from the outset New Zealand is not immune from intelligence gathering.”

This seems to represent a change from her prior statements in this regard.

Of course Peters then reverts to type

Peters said “drawing a link between Salisbury and a claim that was never verified, never talked about, never brought to the authorities of New Zealand’s attention” was a “bit loose”.

“If he’s not lying, why didn’t he make the claim back then and bring it to our attention?”

This article could have delved more deeply. Why allow Peters the last word? For Peters to criticise looseness and be allowed to get away with it, is ludicrous

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