Winston Peters calls for de-escalation as tensions rise between US and Iran

Source: 1News

Winston Peters is calling for restraint and de-escalation as tensions rise between the US and Iran after Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a targeted airstrike. 

The party conference passed a remit from its youth wing to review its opposition to pill testing at music festivals.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Mr Peters acknowledged the US' "strong" concerns around Iran. 

"We were not advised of the US strikes in advance of their occurrence. The US took action on the basis of information they had," he said. 

Mr Peters said the so-called global coalition (the group of countries working together to defeat ISIS), "has worked very hard for its achievements ... it is important that these gains are preserved and consolidated, not undermined".

"We view very seriously any threats to deployed coalition members, including New Zealand diplomatic staff and military personnel. Recent attacks on coalition bases and embassies constitute unacceptable risks to their safety."

"We continue to keep the security situation under close review, including implications for New Zealand personnel."

The recent conflict began last month, when strikes by the US killed 25 Iran-backed Iraqi militia fighters on December 29.

The US said this was spurred by an attack on a military compound in Iraq that killed a US defence contractor, according to the Associated Press. Iranian-backed militia denied responsibility for the attack. 

Iraq's US Embassy was  broken into on December 31  by Iraqi Shiite militiamen. 

On January 3, US President Donald Trump said under his direction, Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani was killed by a "flawless precision strike".

He accused Soleimani of plotting "imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomat and military personnel". 

Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a statement on state television, warning the US of "harsh retaliation", with the country's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif labelling US' strike as "an act of state terrorism and violation of Iraq's sovereignty", according to the Huffington Post.

Mr Trump tweeted this morning, saying that if Iran strikes any "US person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner".

New Zealand announced its Defence Force departure from Iraq in June last year, scheduled for June this year.

"When it comes to Iraq, it's time to go," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The Taji deployment reduced to a maximum of 75 from July, 2019 and would drop further to 45 in January 2020.

New Zealand increased stabilisation funding to Iraq over the next three years, estimated to go up to $3 million per year from $2.4m.

Reuters reported last night Iraq's Parliament to passed a resolution to "end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, air space or water for any reason".