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‘Soul mates’ discuss joint deployment

Friday 27 February 2015 | Published in Regional


AUCKLAND – joint deployment of Australian and New Zealand troops to Iraq were expected to dominate talks when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott flew in to Auckland yesterday.

Abbott is making his first prime ministerial visit to New Zealand and on Saturday will hold formal annual bilateral talks with his New Zealand counterpart John Key.

The Prime Minister is being joined by his New Zealand-born wife Margie.

The annual talks between the leaders of Australia and New Zealand have special symbolic significance this year, with both nations preparing to commemorate the centenary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.

A new joint military mission, this time to Iraq, is likely to dominate the discussions.

“I think it’s a good thing that Australians and New Zealanders are once again deploying together,” said Peter Jennings, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“We’ve done this for well over 100 years so there’s a nice symbolism and it shows that two like-minded countries are prepared to put forces into harm’s way to pursue an important strategic goal.”

New Zealand did not take part in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and this new mission is sharply dividing public opinion in the small country.

Key announced the deployment of up to 143 New Zealand soldiers on Tuesday, but Abbott has indicated any Australian announcement would only be made once he had returned home and consulted his Cabinet and the Opposition.

The two leaders, who Abbott described as “soul mates”, will also discuss closer economic ties before the Australian leader returns home after 24 hours.

They will also attend Saturday’s Australia and New Zealand Cricket World Cup match at Eden Park.