Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

New Zealand ambassador thanks UAE for solidarity in face of terror attack

Country's embassy also condemns Australian politician whose comments caused outrage

Matthew Hawkins, wearing a blue suit and tie, smiles alongside New Zealand's Special Olympic athletes at the opening ceremony on Thursday. Mohamed Al Baloushi.
Matthew Hawkins, wearing a blue suit and tie, smiles alongside New Zealand's Special Olympic athletes at the opening ceremony on Thursday. Mohamed Al Baloushi.

New Zealand’s ambassador to the UAE has thanked the Emirates for its support following the tragic shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.

Matthew Hawkins, who became head of New Zealand’s embassy in Abu Dhabi in January, also distanced his country from the “extremist” Australian senator who blamed the devastating terrorist attack on Muslim immigration.

Mr Hawkins shared a statement from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemning inflammatory remarks made by Fraser Anning.

Mr Anning, a member of the Australian senate since November 2017, claimed the tragedy was due to “Muslim fanatics” being allowed to migrate to New Zealand.

“Comments by Australian Senator Fraser Anning do not represent the views of New Zealanders,” said the statement.

“Fraser Anning is not a New Zealander and his extreme views are condemned by politicians in New Zealand and in his own country.”

On Thursday, Mr Hawkins joined the New Zealand Special Olympics team for the opening ceremony of the seven-day sporting extravaganza in Abu Dhabi.

When news of the attack broke, officials took the decision to light up a number of buildings in the capital - including the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company headquarters - with the New Zealand flag in a show of solidarity.

Mr Hawkins described the gesture as “special”. He added: “[On Thursday] I joined the NZ team for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics.

“The powerful message from our UAE hosts was one of inclusion and tolerance.

“The UAE hosts 200 nationalities including thousands of NZers. Then I woke this morning [Friday] to awful news from Christchurch.

“I received many messages of condolences from senior members of the UAE government, officials, colleagues and friends.

“Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for the victims of Christchurch and for our country.”

Mr Anning, meanwhile, has been widely condemned for a statement issued following the attacks, believed to have left at least 49 dead.

In it, he claimed the “real cause of bloodshed” was “the immigration programme which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place”.

On Friday, a 17-year-old boy smashed an egg over Mr Anning’s head as he spoke to the media.

The senator, who sits as an independent and was not directly elected, swung two punches at the teenager in response.

Updated: March 16, 2019 05:58 PM

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