New Zealand's Defence Minister Ron Mark is not considering withdrawing troops from Iraq early, he says.
Mark's comments were made just before knowledge of reports of attacks on
multiple locations in Iraq, including the al Asad airbase that hosts US
Iraqi MPs passed a resolution this week calling for foreign troops to
leave the country after the US killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in
a drone strike at Baghdad airport.
Canada has today announced it will move its troops from Iraq to Kuwait
for their own safety, and Germany, Slovakia, Croatia have said they have
done the same.
When Mark was asked whether he was considering the same, he said "no, I'm not".
"We will continue to monitor the situation," he said.
"This is a time for cool heads and calm. There are families back here in
New Zealand who I guess can be sensitive to reporting - from our
position and Defence's position it's about maintaining stringent
situational awareness, making calm, cool, collected assessments."
He said despite Iraqi MPs passing a resolution for troops to leave, the
Iraqi government had not formally asked New Zealand to withdraw.
Mark said he had absolute confidence on the leadership of the New
Zealand Defence Force, and it was not up to him to make decisions for
"I as a minister will be guided by the quality and the level of advice that I receive, based on what I've seen personally."
"Yes, we are concerned about the situation," he said.
"As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has already said, we have called for
a calm de-escalation. We would like to think that dialogue would play a
Mark said New Zealand would continue to collaborate with coalition
partners and make decisions based on the situation at the time.
"But at the moment it is a case of being alert, being aware, monitoring,
and doing what we can to ensure we have our people as safe as
The New Zealand government was already planning to withdraw troops by June this year.
Travel warning to New Zealanders
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is warning New Zealanders not
to travel close to the Iranian border with Afghanistan and Iraq due to
the threat of terrorism.
It has posted warnings to avoid non-essential travel since tensions began to ratchet up in the area.
The reviewed warning came shortly before 1pm and just minutes after the missile attack on US air bases in Iraq.
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