NEWS

Aust To Kiribati: You’re Still Welcome

The Suva Agreement that was signed by leaders of Micronesia, Polynesia, Melanesia was to resolve a dispute over PIF’s top job, the Secretary- General’s post.
13 Jul 2022 08:27
Aust To Kiribati: You’re Still Welcome
From left: Pacific Community Deputy Director-General Science and Capability Paula Vivili, Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, Tonga’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Fekitamoeloa Katoa, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman and Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Penny Wong during the Pacific Talanoa session at the Suva Civic Centre on July 12, 2022. Photo: Leon Lord

The door is still open, says Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong.

Senator Wong made this comment as she joined other voices of Pacific leaders over Kiribati President Taneti Maamau’s deliberately miss of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Suva this week.

She reiterated that together with the forum members they sought reconciliation.

She said the door remained open and hoped that progress could be made. She commended the Fijian Government and the leaders from the Micronesian States for their work in trying to bring the forum back together.

 

Suva Agreement

Meanwhile, Australia supported the Suva Agreement as a pathway to unity.

“We are continuing to work towards greater unity, and I note the position that the President of Kiribati has articulated, and I say, along with all other members of the Forum, that we seek reconciliation, and the door remains open, and we hope that progress can be made there.”

The Suva Agreement that was signed by leaders of Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia was to resolve a dispute over PIF’s top job, the Secretary-General’s post.

 

The Micronesians had threatened withdrawal from PIF because they felt it was their turn to hold the post which went to former Cook Islands now former Prime Minister Henry Puna from Polynesia.

The Suva Agreement is said to be part of the deal where the post would rotate among the sub-regions. Micronesia will fill the post when Mr Puna’s contract expires.

Senator Wong strongly spoke on the ‘unity of the forum’ at a press conference at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva yesterday.

 

While she wished the Kiribati President and the people of Kiribati all the best on their national day, she said her focus, along with those of the Forum leaders, was to try and do what they could to strengthen the Forum at a time where the Forum needed to be unified.

“That’s the approach we’ve taken.”

She said Australia viewed that they should facilitate the discus- sions and the cooperation between the Micronesians and Prime Minister Bainimarama and others

“That’s the approach we’re taking.”

Obviously, as I said, competition is one of the challenges the region faces and we do think it’s best faced together.”

She added that the leaders must be given time.

“I think that a lot has passed, a lot of progress has been made and if you look to where the Forum was over a year ago now, we are in a much better place than we were and that’s a great tribute to leaders who have been prepared to come to the table when there were really strong differences, some of which you’ve referred to. But obviously where things are with Kiribati, we need to keep the door open and keep working towards reconciliation.”

 

Kiribati Funding

Senator Wong has reiterated that their development assistance to Kiribati will not be affected despite their withdrawal from the Forum. “Our development assistance doesn’t come with those sorts of political strings attached.” Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy added that on Monday, Australia announced an additional $2 million of assistance to Kiribati to assist with their crippling drought.

“That’s on top of the $600,000 we announced a couple of weeks ago. So very important that aid is unconditional like that.”

 

Feedback: losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj 



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