WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Israel has rejected New Zealand's new ambassador because he is also an envoy to the Palestinian Authority, officials said Monday.
New Zealand officials said that since 2008, its ambassadors in Turkey have been responsible for covering a large swath of territory. But Israel has refused to accept their latest appointment to the post, Jonathan Curr, who was due to travel to Jerusalem in the coming days to present his papers.
"A few days ago, Israel advised New Zealand that it would not accept as ambassador a person who was also a representative to the Palestinian Authority," Foreign Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman in Jerusalem said the decision reflected the ministry's practice of not accrediting foreign diplomats who are also accredited to the Palestinian Authority.
"We have a well-known policy," said the spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon. "It's not aimed at New Zealand."
Nahshon said Israel had taken no action against the two previous New Zealand ambassadors, also accredited to the Palestinian Authority, because it had been unaware of their accreditations.
The Israeli Embassy in Wellington said in a statement that the matter was "totally unconnected to the good relations between the two countries."
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he was trying to gather more information on the issue. Asked whether Israel was trying to send New Zealand a message, Key said: "I don't know. Maybe. I wouldn't want to read too much into it. Let's see."
Key said his government was likely viewed internationally as being pro-Israel before 2012, when it became one of 138 countries that voted in favor of giving Palestine nonmember observer status at the U.N. Since that vote, Key said, New Zealand has been viewed as being more neutral.
"Our long-standing view has been that there has to be peace in the Middle East, and in the end we want a two-state solution," he said.
New Zealand's ambassador in Turkey is also charged with taking care of diplomatic relationships with Jordan, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Key said it would "obviously be pretty inconvenient" if it couldn't continue such an arrangement and that McCully would be investigating what next steps needed to be taken.
"We don't have massive representation in that part of the world," Key said.
Associated Press writer Peter Enav in Jerusalem contributed to this report.