Key refuses to rule out military action in Syria

Prime Minister John Key (Getty)
Prime Minister John Key (Getty)

The Prime Minister has opened the door to New Zealand military involvement in Syria.

A reconstruction team - like the one New Zealand deployed to Afghanistan - is one option. There could also be a role for our SAS in helping identify Islamic State (IS) targets for air strikes.

But Mr Key will make no commitment unless the United Nations gives the green light.

The move comes after Australia announced plans to bomb IS in Syria, with Prime Minister Tony Abbot also refusing to rule out sending in ground troops.

"We'll say that they'll be there as long as needed, but no longer than necessary," Mr Abbott said.

There's no chance of New Zealand doing the same, but sending non-combat troops to Syria is an option.

"Some sort of reconstruction team maybe one day - that's possible - but at the moment the focus is on Iraq," he said.

In Afghanistan, New Zealand's SAS helped identify targets for air strikes. They're not officially deployed to do that in Syria, but do have the capacity.

"For the most part we're not doing that in Syria," said Mr Key. "They're not working on that at the moment, we always from time to time have people who move around from one place but we haven't deployed them or anything."

As a UN Security Council member, it wouldn't look good for New Zealand to officially support military action in Syria without a council mandate - something Russia has consistently vetoed.

But Mr Key thinks that could be changing.

"I'm not that negative - I feel behind the scenes there's a bit of movement happening."

So from Papua New Guinea, the Pacific's two biggest players have given a sense of a creeping mission, and Mr Key certainly doesn't want to be accused of mission creep.

Nor can he be – yet. But the situation with IS in Iraq and Syria is mutating daily.

Mr Key's avoiding ruling anything out because at anytime, anywhere, the situation could change completely.

3 News