John Key: Syrian setback must be put aside

Prime Minister John Key (Richard Cooper)
Prime Minister John Key (Richard Cooper)

Prime Minister John Key has arrived in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, where he's talking up Helen Clark's chances of becoming its Secretary-General.

But he's talking down the chances of a meaningful resolution from the Security Council on Syria when he chairs a special meeting this week.

Mr Key is a Kiwi battler on the streets of New York City, off for a 39-minute plotting session with the old foe, with "the old enemy", and it wasn't awkward at all apparently.

"No, no issues - we put them aside seven and a half years ago," says Ms Clark.

Ms Clark is currently ranked seventh out of nine to become Secretary-General, but there will be no surrender.

"You stand there because you know there is going to be some sort of compromise."

Her tactic is the long game: wait until two weeks' time when the voting process lets the powerful permanent five members of Security Council use their veto for the first time and hope they take out candidates ahead of her.

She is comparing it to a gunfight.

"The strategy has been to stay in this race, but when there is a shoot-out at the OK Corral to be left standing as an option."

Other old foes, Russia and the United States, are dominating affairs at the United Nations, fighting over Syria's fragile ceasefire deal that was meant to mean Russia and Assad's Syrian government and the United States and rebel forces agree to stop fighting each other. Both are allowed to attack terrorist group the Islamic State (IS).

But then a US-led airstrike aimed at IS hit the Syrian Army, and now the Assad regime is bombing rebels again.

Mr Key will chair the Security Council on Thursday. It's clear the hope was it would endorse the ceasefire. That all changed with the bombing.

"It is possible in the realm of things for the Security Council to have a resolution in relation to Syria, but not necessarily guaranteed and not a sign of failure if there isn't one."

So as one Cold War ratchets up in New York, another couple of battlers gear up for a fight of their own.