NZ foreign policy critics warn over ‘inflaming’ Red Sea crisis, call for Gaza ceasefire

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A watermelon banner in last Sunday's pro-Palestinian rally calling for a Gaza ceasefire in Auckland's Queen Street
A "watermelon" placard in last Sunday's pro-Palestinian rally calling for a Gaza ceasefire in Auckland's Queen Street . . . the fruit represents the "unbreakable spirit of the Palestinian people". Image: David Robie/Asia Pacific Report

Asia Pacific Report

A group of foreign policy critics alarmed at the Aotearoa New Zealand government’s “undemocratic decision” to step up support for US-led strikes against Yemen have warned against “inflaming” the Red Sea maritime crisis.

They have urgently called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza as they say the Israeli war that has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians is the root cause of the crisis.

The foreign policy group, Te Kuaka, said in a statement that the government’s decision to deploy a six-member NZ Defence Force team to the Middle East was “deeply alarming”.

The government announcement came this afternoon at a post-Cabinet media conference.

Group co-director Dr Arama Rata said: “New Zealand’s involvement in the Red Sea will just inflame regional instability and cause more civilian deaths without addressing the root cause of the Houthi actions, which is ending the genocide in Gaza.”

Dr Rata said it was deeply alarming that this decision was made without a Parliamentary mandate, particularly given the incredibly high stakes of the crisis.

“There has been no explicit authorisation of military action in self defence against Yemen by the UN Security Council either,” she said.

‘Frightening precedent’
“This sets a frightening precedent for how foreign policy decisions are made.

“There are huge risks to not just the Middle East, but New Zealand directly, when we take the side of the US and the UK, nations that have a long history of oppressive intervention in the Global South.”

Co-director Dr Marco de Jong said: “We know that public opinion and a Parliamentary mandate would have swayed any foreign policy decisions in the direction of calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

“Public polls and weekly protests for Palestine, since October 7, have shown this to be the case.”

Thousands took to Queen Street in the heart of Auckland for the 15th consecutive week to protest over the war and to call for a ceasefire and an end to genocide. One of the Palestinian speakers addressing the crowd reminded them millions of citizen protesters were demonstrating all over the world.

The protesters condemned Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters for failing to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

At today’s, post-cabinet media conference Luxon claimed the Houthi attacks were hurting New Zealand exporters.

Global trade
“Nearly 15 percent of global trade goes through the Red Sea, and the Houthi attacks are driving costs higher for New Zealanders and causing delays to shipments,” Luxon said.

However, Dr de Jong said: “By pre-empting these criticisms [such as by critics and protesters] in its own announcement, the government is wrongly suggesting that our intervention in the Middle East will not be viewed in the context of genocide in Gaza and highlighting NZ’s previous involvement in US-led misadventures — which have been similarly deadly and destructive.”

Dr Rata added: “We need to have an honest reflection about our positioning alongside the US and the UK.

“Instead of colluding with these colonial powers, we should be standing with countries like Brazil and South Africa, which are challenging old colonial regimes, and represent the majority of the international community.”

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