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MPs, foreign diplomats pay tribute to Winston Peters as he bids farewell to Parliament

Foreign diplomats and MPs from across the political spectrum last night paid tribute to former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters as he bid farewell to Parliament.

Todd Muller and Winston Peters. Source: Todd Muller MP / Facebook

The former Deputy Prime Minister, 75, was farewelled at an event honouring his long and storied poltical career. 

The New Zealand First leader began his career in Parliament as a young National MP in 1978. He was ousted from his seat in 1981, before making a return in the Tauranga electorate in 1984.

“Great to be at Foreign Affairs farewell to Winston Peters," short-lived former National Party leader Todd Muller said in a Facebook post last night.

"I have known him since 1989 when he launched the Young Nats at Waikato University for me. Many a time I have shaken my head at what he has said, but never have I doubted his love of this country and desire to serve it."

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Labour MP Willie Jackson also paid tribute to Peters, who he said appeared to be "overwhelmed by it all".

"It was tremendous that so many turned out to honour one of our country's great politicians," he said.

"Winston didn't announce his retirement or anything, however he was very clear that in the area of Foreign Affairs, one had to rise above one's own party affiliations and put the country first and foremost.

"It was a privilege to attend the function."

US ambassador Scott Brown also honoured the occasion on Twitter yesterday afternoon, thanking new Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs Aupito William Sio for hosting the event.

Other foreign embassies also marked the occasion, with the Cuban ambassador to New Zealand, Edgardo Valdés Lopez, thanking the longtime politician for his "good communication with Cuba". 

The Embassy of Ireland to Aotearoa New Zealand and Samoa also gave their thanks to Peters, where they recognised his "role in opening the NZ Embassy in Ireland". 

The former Deputy Prime Minister stepped back from politics after this year's election, after his party failed to receive enough votes to return to Parliament.