Israel-Hamas conflict: Former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters criticises Government's initial response

Former Foreign Affairs Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the Government was "late getting off the mark" in releasing a statement about the Israel-Hamas conflict  

On Sunday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta released a statement about the deadly fighting between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, which attracted some criticism for not being strong enough.  

"Aotearoa, New Zealand is deeply concerned at the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Gaza," Mahuta said on X.  

"We call for the immediate cessation of violence. The protection of all civilians, and upholding of international and humanitarian law is essential." 

Later on Sunday afternoon, Mahuta issued a second statement on X.

"New Zealand utterly condemns the terrorist attacks led by Hamas on Israel, and continues to urge restraint from all parties in the region in order to prevent the further loss of civilian lives."

By Monday morning, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB the wording of Mahuta's first statement "could have been stronger".  

Hipkins said his statement, which followed a couple of hours later "was a lot stronger".  

"I'm not going to get hung up on that, I think the wording could've been stronger but New Zealand's position on this has been very clear right from the beginning," Hipkins said.   

"We support a two-state solution, that's New Zealand's long-standing position, both... I think both major parties in New Zealand support that as the ultimate resolution here."  

"But what has happened is just abhorrent."  

NZ First leader Peters told AM's Ryan Bridge that Mahuta "didn't make a comment at all, really" compared to Hipkins' "very sound" statement.  

"This is a full-scale war now, the consequences of which will be a serious loss of life. But it was just out of left field, a full-on premeditated attack on innocent people. That has to be deplored for what it is."  

When asked by Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking if Hipkins would have released a statement if Mahuta's was stronger, the Labour leader said he would have.   

"I think it's likely that I would've wanted to say something on this anyway, I mean it is a major international event."  

Hipkins said "ultimately" he and Mahuta were both saying it was "wrong".   

"We do want to see a two-state solution, we do want to see de-escalation, but we absolutely respect Israel's right to defend itself."  

Watch Peters' full interview above.