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PM Lee 'surprised' at New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern's stepping down, hails her as a 'steadfast friend to Singapore'

SINGAPORE — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been a "steadfast friend to Singapore" who has shown "great dedication and leadership", Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) greeting Ms Jacinda Ardern during her second official visit to Singapore in April 2022.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) greeting Ms Jacinda Ardern during her second official visit to Singapore in April 2022.

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SINGAPORE — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been a "steadfast friend to Singapore" who has shown "great dedication and leadership", Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Ms Ardern’s announcement on Thursday (Jan 19) that she will be resigning was something Mr Lee did not expect. "Surprised to learn this morning that New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is stepping down," Mr Lee wrote in a Facebook post later in the day.

"PM Ardern has been a steadfast friend to Singapore." 

Mr Lee said that the two countries had "upgraded our excellent ties" during Ms Ardern's first official visit to Singapore in 2019, with the establishment of the Singapore-New Zealand Enhanced Partnership.

The partnership aimed to help both countries intensify collaboration in areas such as trade, science and security.

"We didn’t meet face-to-face for two years after that because of the pandemic, but last April, as we started to re-open borders, she visited again, and we expanded the EP (Enhanced Partnership) to include cooperation in climate change and the green economy," he added. 

Apart from the official visits, Mr Lee said that he had also met with Ms Ardern “many times, in person, online and at international fora”.

"She has shown great dedication and leadership, particularly in steering her country through crises such as the Christchurch attack and Covid-19."

In 2019, Ms Ardern received international praise for her handling of the deadly terrorist attacks in Christchurch, which killed 51 people. 

During her first visit to Singapore that year, Mr Lee thanked her for her leadership in rallying an “effective international response to this serious issue” of terror attacks and said that Singapore would work with New Zealand and other countries to tackle terrorism and violent extremism.

Mr Lee added on Thursday that he regularly kept in touch with Ms Ardern during the Covid-19 pandemic to share experiences and exchange notes, and ensure that supply lines stayed open between both countries.

In April 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak and when Singapore went into a partial lockdown, Mr Lee said on Facebook that he had contacted Ms Ardern to update each other on how both countries had been managing the global health crisis.

During her last visit to Singapore, both prime ministers agreed to work closely on addressing climate change and a green economy, including the area of sustainable aviation.

Mr Lee said: "I thank PM Ardern for her strong partnership, support and good humour. She is an inspiration to many, and I wish her and her family all the best!" 

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Jacinda Ardern Lee Hsien Loong New Zealand

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