Key works banquet as summit closes

ANDREA VANCE IN THE HAGUE
Last updated 08:36 26/03/2014

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You know those tiresome after-conference work dinners? Spare a thought for world leaders.

Last night a suited cross-section of the world's political and economic elite rounded off their day of discussions on international security with a royal banquet.

The setting was sumptuous - beneath the intricately muralled walls of 17th century Palace Huis ten Bosch. But it was a working dinner, particularly for Prime Minister John Key who is making the most of his last chance to push for a non-permanent place for New Zealand on the United Nations Security Council.

The vote takes place in October, too close to New Zealand's general election for Key to attend the UN General Assembly where New Zealand's rivals will be talking up their cases.

Unfortunately, Key seemed to have been chopped out of an official pre-dinner photo with Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima - perhaps positioned too far up the elegant stairways to be caught on camera.

It was another snub - New Zealand was also left off a world map hung for the official summit photo. But the Queen did come over to mingle with him later in the evening.

Key sat elbow-to-elbow with the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and a delegate from Armenia. Also at the table was European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

"We know the small group that have either said no or who are undecided and those we continue to push hard," Key says of his lobbying.

"But with all of them we continue to keep reminding [them] about the process and what's happening."

Key won't say who has rejected his overtures.

"Nothing personal but MFAT [Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] would probably garrotte me if I did."

Turkey and Spain are New Zealand's competition for the seat, both beset with their own domestic problems.

"Both of them have got what we would describe as issues at the moment, so that's an advantage," he said.

After hours of diplomatic speed-dating - he's chatted up German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most important folk in Europe, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a delegation from Singapore, and Indonesia's Vice President Boediono, Key said he was feeling as "confident as I possibly can".

"I think New Zealand has got a very good rep in terms of international foreign policy," he said.

"We are generally seen as good people ... lots of people like us . . . [but] the Spanish-speakers will almost certainly vote for Spain, it would be highly irregular if they didn't. The Europeans will almost certainly go with Spain, although there are many others that will go with Turkey."

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It was a long night, and not just for Key's dinner companions. The event over-ran by an hour, meaning Key couldn't slip away for a nightcap with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

With both their respective economies showing growth, who knows what rash wager they would have made this time. After their last meeting, in Sri Lanka in November, Cameron was forced to wear Kiwi cuff links after losing a bet on an England-All Blacks rugby match.

"By the end it was getting to about 11pm and I think we were sort of wondering how coherent we would be given the jet lag, so we had a bit of a chat there," Key said.

The summit finished today with more than 30 countries pledging to turn international guidelines on national security into national laws.

- Stuff

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