United Kingdom Foreign Secretary James Cleverly cancels New Zealand plans to deal with Sudan crisis

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary has cancelled his New Zealand plans and is hurriedly making his way back home after only just arriving in Wellington.

James Cleverly said he had told Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta "how disappointed I am to have had to leave early", but he is "looking forward to coming back soon".

He's been visiting Pacific Island nations this week after attending the G7 meeting in Japan. The tour, which has included Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, was to strengthen the UK's partnership with the region, which it wants to see remain "free and open".

But the growing crisis in Sudan forced the top diplomat on Thursday night to abort his plans to visit Samoa and instead divert to Wellington, where he wasn't meant to land until Friday.

"The situation in Sudan means he has decided to come straight here, where the British have a larger and better equipped High Commission, with more reliable, stable and secure comms, allowing him to more easily co-ordinate the UK's response to events in the African state," the UK's Foreign Office said on Thursday night.

Cleverly was scheduled to hold a press conference with Mahuta on Saturday. Key parts of his programme were still expected to go ahead as of Thursday night.

But on Friday, it was announced his plans had been cancelled and he was flying back to the United Kingdom.

"It's with real regret that due to the ongoing situation in Sudan I've had to cut the visit short.

"I've learned a lot about the region, its opportunities and challenges.

"I've spoken to Foreign Minister Mahuta and told her how disappointed I am to have had to leave early and we've agreed we'll reschedule as soon as we can. I'm very much looking forward to coming back soon."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he was due to meet with Cleverly on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, he's had to return back to the UK to deal with the situation in Sudan and which I think everyone will acknowledge is a tragic situation there and one that the UK Government will be very focused on and he's gone back to lead to their response to that."

He said he was "disappointed" not to have the opportunity to meet with him, but he's heading to the United Kingdom in early May for the King's Coronation.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister whilst I'm over there and make further progress around our trade arrangements with the UK during that time as well."

Earlier this week, Mahuta said Cleverly is a "friend of New Zealand".

"We look forward to celebrating recent achievements in the bilateral relationship, discussing our cooperation together in the Pacific, and how each of our countries will work together on global issues, including climate change and support to Ukraine."

Cleverly was tweeting earlier on Friday that he had had discussions with counterparts about the situation in Sudan, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Hundreds have been killed and thousands of civilians have fled Sudan's capital of Khartoum amid a violent power struggle between the army and a paramilitary group. 

New Zealand's Safe Travel website has a "do not travel" advisory in place for the African nation.

"There are reports that Khartoum International Airport is closed and that other airports in Sudan are closed to commercial flights. There may be disruptions to critical infrastructure and essential services. Monitor local media coverage and follow the advice of local authorities. Contact your friends and family as soon as possible to let them know that you are safe."

New Zealanders already in Sudan are advised they may need to consider departure at short notice.

"We recommend having a contingency plan for departure in place and ensuring you have adequate supplies of food, water, fuel, cash and essential medication stockpiled."