Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has formally met with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres amid the escalating war in Ukraine.
Ardern is in New York for the UN General Assembly, where leaders have gathered to deal with the world’s crises.
She said the meeting with Guterres covered issues such as the war in Ukraine, the role of the Indo-Pacific in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as well as the challenges facing the Pacific, including climate change.
Ardern said the expulsion of the Russian ambassador was “one of New Zealand’s least meaningful” actions.
“As you will know, among all the options for our strong response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, we have always had a series of options on the table, expelling the Russian ambassador has always been one of those options… most of our like-minded partners haven’t taken advantage of that opportunity and that’s because of all the things we could do, that’s one of the least useful in this situation.”
A UN statement released after the meeting said Guterres thanked New Zealand for its “steadfast support for multilateralism”.
“The Secretary General and the Prime Minister exchanged views on global security, including the impact of the war in Ukraine and the challenges facing the Pacific,” the statement said.
Guterres opened Leaders’ Week warning of a coming “winter of global discontent”.
“We can’t go on like this,” he said. “We have an obligation to act – and yet we are stuck in a colossal global dysfunction.”
Ardern met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal yesterday and confirmed New Zealand’s support.
She also attended President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “powerful” speech to the General Assembly, joining a standing ovation at the end of the meeting.
Ardern has found time for other events on the sidelines: at night she sat for the first time with Chilean President Gabriel Boric.
She also briefly attended a climate function for leaders in the Pacific, chaired by Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and was invited to give an impromptu speech.
“When it comes to the main security issue facing our region, it is by far the issue of climate change,” Ardern said.
Tonight, the New Zealand delegation, along with Bainimarama, would host a meeting of leaders from the Pacific islands, Ardern said.
Some countries worry that the focus on the war in Russia is crowding out other existential crises, such as the climate crisis.
Ardern attended a reception yesterday hosted by US President Joe Biden and open to all leaders.
She said she also had a brief chat with Biden while she was in London for the Queen’s funeral.
She previously told media that Putin’s actions were an “extraordinary escalation” of the conflict and called for a “call from the world”.
“What you see in Ukraine is illegal,” Ardern said. “It’s immoral.”
“It causes a loss of civilian casualties, and that loss could expand if – as Putin claimed – he expands the types of weapons used in this war,” she said.