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Goff to PALM, Europe, Israel Palestinian Authority

Goff to PALM, Europe, Israel, Palestinian Authority

Foreign Minister Phil Goff leaves for the Pacific Leaders Meeting (PALM) in Japan later today on a trip that will also take him to Malta, Greece, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The two-day PALM meeting in Okinawa, hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi, offers Pacific leaders the chance to engage with Japan on a range of regional issues including security, education, health, trade and the environment.

"I will also be meeting with the Japanese and Australian Foreign Ministers in Japan, and will take the opportunity to discuss key issues with Pacific Island leaders ahead of the Pacific Island Forum in Auckland in August," Mr Goff said.

From Japan, Mr Goff travels to Malta, a country with a long-standing Commonwealth connection and which next year will be one of the 10 new countries acceding to the European Union.

Mr Goff will spend five days in Greece, where he will undertake consultations between New Zealand and the Presidency of the European Union. He will have bilateral discussions with the Greek government and will represent New Zealand at the commemoration of the defence of Crete in World War Two, in which many New Zealanders participated.

"In the face of EU expansion, it is essential that New Zealand continues to register its presence and value to the EU and its new members," Mr Goff said.

"The EU is our second largest market for trade and an increasingly important player in international affairs. We work together closely on issues such as the environment and human rights.

"We need to demonstrate the value New Zealand can bring to the EU's understanding of certain world issues, notably our particular perspective on developments in the Pacific."

Mr Goff's visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority comes at a time of increased international engagement on the Arab-Israel conflict. Although there have been high-level exchanges with their representatives in other capitals, it is the first visit with a foreign relations focus by a Minister from the current government.

"It will be useful to hear first-hand the perspectives of both sides in relation to the recently released Roadmap to a two-state solution, and to have the opportunity to reiterate New Zealand's position on the issue.

"It's a very important time for New Zealand to take the opportunity to further strengthen our links with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I welcome in particular the opportunity to meet with the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who could be a central figure in the progress towards resolving the longstanding conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," Mr Goff said.

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