Israeli official meets New Zealand FM

Visit marks end of diplomatic freeze begun over 2004 spy scandal.

ron prosor 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ron prosor 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Director-General of the Foreign Ministry Ron Prosor held talks on Wednesday with New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters in Wellington. The meeting marked the end of a diplomatic freeze begun in 2004 over a spy scandal. "New Zealand appreciates the very difficult challenges that face Israel and the Middle East region in seeking to establish a durable peace," said Peters. "Our shared democratic traditions provide a good basis for a productive dialogue, and Mr. Prosor's visit was an opportunity to carry forward relations between our two countries." In March 2004, two Mossad agents were caught trying to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports. They were sentenced to a NZ$50,000 fine (to be paid to charity) and a relatively light six months in prison. After the sentencing, a number of steps were taken to freeze diplomatic relations including a suspension of high-level visits, a requirement that Israelis visiting the country in an official capacity apply for visas, and a delay in approving the appointment of a new ambassador to Israel. "The New Zealand government views the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law," said Prime Minister Helen Clark at the time. In June 2005, Israel apologized for the incident, thus beginning the process of improving relations with the New Zealand government. The Israeli embassy in Wellington was reopened in October of that year. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev refused to comment on the meeting.