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The New Zealand Government has not given up hope that the Kiwi nurse kidnapped by ISIS more than five years ago could be alive, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says, but he is staying coy on whether or not the Red Cross' decision to name Louisa Agavi could have put her life at risk.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Monday acknowledged that one of seven aid workers abducted by gunmen in Syria in 2013 was the New Zealand nurse who is still missing. It's believed Akavi was held by ISIS.
The ICRC pleaded for information about Akavi, 62, who was taken along with six others, four of which were released the next day, while she was delivering medical supplies to hospitals.
Prior to Monday's announcement, the Red Cross, the Government and several New Zealand media outlets and journalists had kept the case quiet for fear ofAkavi's safety.
Ever since she was abducted in 2013, it has been and remained the Government's viewpoint that her case be left out of the public domain,Peters told media today.
The Red Cross was told "countless times" what the Government thought the best strategy was, but despite differing stances on going public with the case, the Government would not give up hope of getting Ms Agavi out alive, he said.
Peter's believed the Government knew more than the Red Cross about what was going on in the field.
“We've got the assets in the field which they don't have,” he said.
“We've used the expertise of our own people, other international utilities and assets which I can't name to try and get to this person and extract them. That's what we've been doing all this time.
“It's sad, the fact of the matter is we went there looking for someone in the most extremely difficult, changing circumstances and we've never given up hope, and we're not giving up hope now.”
Peters continued: “We've never given up that we might one day be successful.And you'd probably wonder why we'd go to that level of difficulty and the answer is, across the political divide we've all shared the same view, that the humanitarian effort of her kind deserves the response from the country and I'm proud of that.
“As I said to her family, we've got to keep on working and you keep on praying and we just might make it one day.”
“[The Government and its resources are] doing the best we can to stay on mission so to speak. It does not help, frankly though in my view, to have identified with greater clarity the person we're trying to find.”
When asked whether the naming could put Agavi's life in danger Peters said, “I can't make that judgement other than to say that was our perception.
“We're in grave danger here of losing sight of Louisa Agavi, right, we're in serious danger of losing that and it's nothing to do with the New Zealand Government, nothing to do with the strategy we follow, nothing to do with the two Government's in a row and nothing to do with the fact that we were all, in the media and in the political domain of this country, all in the same corner so to speak.”
When asked if her being named could put personnel looking for her at risk he said, “You know I can't answer that question but you know what my answer would be if I could answer.”
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