Jacinda Ardern and Boris Johnson discuss Middle East, trade deals and climate change

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has praised New Zealand’s long-held position of advocating for avoiding any escalation in tensions in the Middle East.

Johnson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke on Tuesday night (UK time) and touched on a number of high-level topics.

These included the escalating tensions in the Middle East, a post-Brexit free trade agreement and climate change.

A spokesman for Ardern told the Herald that during the call Johnson praised New Zealand’s consistent position when it comes to the de-escalation in the region.

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“They also agreed it’s in no one’s interests for there to be heightened tension in the Middle East. PM Johnson shared and supported New Zealand’s consistent call for de-escalation and ongoing dialogue.”

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Tensions have flared in the region as the ongoing stoush between the US and Iran continues to escalate.

After the US assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike earlier this month, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at a US airbase in Iraq.

Both New Zealand and UK troops are stationed at the base, Camp Taji, where the missiles were fired – there were no reports of death or injury.

Tensions remain high as leaders around the world call for de-escalation.

In his statement, Johnson’s office said: “The leaders discussed the situation in the Middle East and agreed on the need for continued engagement and dialogue to de-escalate tensions”.

The statement also said the pair would work together to strengthen the two countries’ bilateral relationship.

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“[This] includes agreeing [on] an ambitious free trade deal after the UK leaves the EU.”

Ardern’s spokesman said the pair recommitted to negotiating a Free Trade Agreement, as soon as the UK is in a position to do so.

“It’s a matter of when, not if.”

This is not the first time Johnson and Ardern have discussed a post-Brexit agreement.

The UK Prime Minister has told Ardern in the past that New Zealand was a “high priority” for such an agreement in the future.

Ardern said at the time that she was almost surprised by how eager Johnson was to press on with free trade talks.

“Signing the deal is of course down to our negotiators, but he wants to start talks pretty much straight away, he tells me,” Ardern told Newstalk ZB.

According to Johnson’s office, during the call, Ardern and Jonson also: “underlined the importance of our ongoing co-operation to tackle climate change, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year.”

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