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New Zealand to Forgo Russia Trade Plans03/16 06:15

   WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand on Friday put aside plans to 
pursue a free-trade deal with Russia and joined other nations in condemning the 
country following the poisoning of a former spy in Britain.

   New Zealand had come under increasing pressure from allies to denounce 
Russia following the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter 
Yulia in Salisbury.

   Leaders finally did that when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign 
Minister Winston Peters said in a joint statement there was no plausible 
explanation other than the poison came from Russia.

   "The Russian reaction has been cynical, sarcastic and inadequate," they 

   A spokesman for Ardern said plans to pursue a free-trade deal were on hold 
following the Salisbury attack.

   New Zealand first started negotiating a deal with Russia, Belarus and 
Kazakhstan in 2010 in hopes of getting better access for butter and beef 
exports. Negotiations were suspended in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.

   But Peters had been pushing to progress the deal again. In an interview with 
Newshub last week before the attack in Britain, he said he was "deadly serious" 
about pursuing a Russia trade deal, and that there was no evidence Russia had 
been responsible for shooting down a passenger plane over Ukraine.

   After the British attack, Peters put out a statement expressing concern and 
saying the question of how the nerve agent got to Britain from Russia was the 
"key issue."

   Many considered that statement to be unconvincing and equivocal. 

   Opposition lawmaker Todd McClay said Peters was earning a reputation as a 
Russia apologist and that New Zealand needed to stand by the U.K.

   Laura Clarke, the British High Commissioner, told Radio New Zealand there 
could be "compatibility" issues should New Zealand continue to seek trade deals 
with Russia as well as the European Union and Britain.

   On Friday the government took a much tougher stance. 

   "New Zealand fully supports the sovereign right of the U.K. to take the 
action it considers appropriate in response to this violation of international 
law on its territory," Ardern and Peters said. 


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