Wellington, May 2 (IANS) French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday said the bombing of the Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland 31 years ago was a huge mistake.
Valls — on the first visit by a French prime minister to New Zealand in 25 years — said the relationship between New Zealand and France had been patched up since the attack by French secret service agents, Xinhua news agency reported.
In July 1985, French spies detonated two mines attached to the side of the Rainbow Warrior as it sat in a dock in downtown Auckland.
The ship was involved in a Greenpeace campaign to protest against France’s testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific.
It sank within minutes, drowning Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira and sparking years of outrage after New Zealand police captured two French agents, who were part of a bigger team, and charged them in connection with the bombing.
“It’s true that 30 years ago, our relationship was quite challenging … that we had made a huge mistake, but I think that we have now turned over a new leaf, our relationship has changed,” Valls was reported as saying.
Valls said the two countries were now committed to looking forward, while remembering the past and never committing the same mistake again.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who held talks with Valls in Auckland on Monday, said there was genuine acknowledgement from France that the bombing was a terrible mistake.
“I’m sure they would never repeat that, they understand the pain and suffering that was undertaken by New Zealanders and the loss of life as a result of their actions,” Key said.
“In the end actually the relationship has to be stronger than one thing. That was a big mistake by France; we have to look forward and put those things behind us, and I think the prime minister’s visit here is just another way of continuing to build on the relationship.”