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New Zealand and NATO to boost cooperation

June 6, 2012 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, June 6 (UPI) -- New Zealand and NATO will increase cooperation, including training of military and civilian personnel, and a greater exchange of information, particularly around security issues.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen signed the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program Arrangement at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

New Zealand has cooperated with NATO on peacekeeping missions, including in Bosnia, and is participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan.

"The relationship and engagement between New Zealand and NATO has developed considerably over the past 10 years, mainly through our involvement in the NATO-lead ISAF mission in Afghanistan," Key said in a written statement.

"Cooperation could come in a number of areas, including maintaining ongoing political dialogue on security issues of mutual interest, offering further NATO training opportunities to our Defense Force and engagement with NATO as it moves to tackle emerging security challenges of interest to New Zealand."

Key is on a European visit that includes Britain and Germany as well as with officials of the European Union.

The document notes that the shift in global economic power is producing "unpredictable consequences."

The risks faced by modern societies extend well beyond national borders because of terrorism, the threat of nuclear proliferation, an increasing economic interdependence, failing states and new technologies such as those used in cyberattacks.

"Climate change and the growing competition for resources are placing further pressure on the international system," the 3-page agreement said.

"This challenging global outlook calls for active engagement by partners sharing common values."

The document cites "enhancing interoperability and enabling support (and) logistics cooperation" that will help New Zealand engage in future NATO-led missions.

Other areas for cooperation include international crisis management, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

Last month, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced New Zealand's mission in Afghanistan will end one year earlier than planned. At a NATO summit in Chicago McCully confirmed a late 2013 withdrawal for New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan.

McCully said a formal handover of control in the northeastern Bamiyan province from New Zealand to Afghan forces would be concluded this year.

New Zealand's Special Air Service forces returned from service in Afghanistan earlier this year but the PRT was scheduled to stay until 2014.

The departing New Zealand forces likely will leave some equipment, including light-armored vehicles, for Afghan forces.

The departure will end what will be by then a decade of New Zealand involvement in the NATO Afghanistan mission in which five New Zealand soldiers have died.

The latest death was that of Cpl. Douglas Hughes, 26, who died in early April as a result of an off-duty incident at the Forward Patrol Base Romero in Bamiyan, Fairfax News Service reported.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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