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New Ambassador to Russia

New Zealand's next ambassador to Russia will be career diplomat Geoff Ward, Foreign Minister Don McKinnon announced today.

Mr McKinnon said that Russia was a huge and important member of the global community, and the only APEC economy to stretch from Asia to Europe.

"Despite a series of bomb explosions in Moscow, Prime Minister Putin and his Foreign and Trade Ministers all made the effort to travel to Auckland and contribute to the recent successful series of APEC meetings," Mr McKinnon said. "I was pleased we were able to work so closely with them during the year leading up to the Leaders' Meeting."

Mr McKinnon noted that Russia had long been an important dairy market for New Zealand and, although sales had reduced over the past year, he was confident they would grow again in the future.

"Ultimately, we should like to see an expansion of our trade into a greater range of products and look forward to Russia's meeting the commercial criteria for entry to the WTO."

Mr Ward was previously High Commissioner in Singapore before taking over his current position as Director of the South and South-East Asia Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has extensive experience in United Nations issues, having served in New York and subsequently being responsible for Security Council issues during New Zealand's term in 1993/94. He has served also in Jakarta and Canberra, and was Private Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1991/92.

"Mr Ward's experience fits him well for representing New Zealand in the capital of one of the UN Security Council's permanent members," Mr McKinnon said.

Mr Ward will take up his posting in October. He replaces John Larkindale who has returned in Wellington.

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