John Key holds talks with Iran foreign minister amid calls for new sanctions
Prime Minister John Key has held talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif amid calls for a resumption of sanctions against Iran after recent missile tests.
But Key said after the talks he did not believe the tests breached Iran's agreement to curtail its nuclear programme.
"New Zealand sees this deal as providing a real opportunity to rebuild trust in the region. It is therefore important to New Zealand that all parties involved do not take steps to undermine that progress."
He said the tests "undermined that process a little bit" but were not a breach of the agreement with the five permanent Security Council member and Germany - the so-called P5+1.
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He said he would describe as "provocative" that missiles had "Israel must be wiped out" written on them in Hebrew. But he said that was not written by the Government but he suspected by a soldier.
Sanctions against Iran were lifted in January after Iran agreed to limit its nuclear capability but international concerns were raised after missiles, with a range of up to 2000km, were tested by Iran in recent months.
The US has threatened Iran with new sanctions over the recent tests and talks between Europe and the United States on the issue are expected soon in Paris.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the tests were a violation of the UN Security Council resolution, because they were longer than the distance allowed, and Israel has called for "punitive steps" to be taken against Iran.
"Because of that they represent a potential threat to countries in the region and beyond."
But Zarif said Iran's tests did not breach the Security Council resolution, and they would continue to develop the weapons.
He said Iran needed missiles for self defence and they were not designed to carry nuclear warheads..
"We spent a fraction of any other country in the region on defence, and missiles are a means of defence that we require," he said.
Iran had guaranteed it would not develop nuclear weapons, he said.
Talks between Key on Monday, following talks between Zarif and Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Sunday, focused on security issues relevant to New Zealand's role on the United Nations Security Council, as well as investment and trade.
Key said he congratulated Zarif on his role negotiating the nuclear deal.
He had also raised human rights, specifically the death penalty.
"We had quite a long talk about why so many people were being put to death. He reaffirmed ... that that's in relation to drug trafficking."
He had said they were almost always Iranians.
Before international sanctions were imposed Iran was New Zealand's fifth biggest export market, mostly from the lamb trade.
Zarif said he hoped New Zealand and Iran could rebuild their trade relationship.
Key said there were great opportunities and demand for New Zealand products, not just meat, from Iran's 80 million population and its growing middle class. It was now at $90m a year, down from $300m before sanctions.
He did not expect Iran to return to being our the fifth largest market but there were opportunities to increase the current level of exports.
McCully said the visit, the first by an Iranian foreign minister for a decade, would help "refresh" the relationship.
He had also raised New Zealand's concerns about human rights abuses in Iran.
Zarif's final engagement of his three day visit to New Zealand was a speech to the Institute of International Affairs in Wellington on Monday where he argued in favour of nuclear disarmament.
He stressed Iran had never invaded another country or taken military action for 250 years but would never attack another country other than in self defence.
He said Iran remembered it was subjected to "brutal aggression" by Iraq for eight and a half years.
Anyone who attacked Iran would "get it from us".
Iran was being threatened on a daily basis by Israel and it was given the ammunition by the United States and no one was asking them why.
When the US said "all options are on the table" that meant the threat or use of force and that was illegal under international law.
Zarif now heads to Australia for talks there on Tuesday.