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PRESS STATEMENT April 29, 1998

A major meeting of Pacific aviation interests commenced today at the South Pacific Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji.

Over 120 delegates from South Pacific Forum countries, adjacent territories and international organisations will be participating in six days of seminars and official meetings. Representatives from all levels of aviation interests have gathered, including airlines, air service providers and governments.

"There would appear now to be a window of opportunity for the region to benefit from the rapid changes taking place in (aviation) technology and markets," said Mr Tony Slatyer, Acting Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat.

The first issue on the agenda is how Forum members can best take advantage of the introduction of new satellite based communication and navigation technology, known as CNS/ATM.

Another focus of the meeting will be whether government ownership and licensing has best served the countries and region. Multilateral agreements elsewhere, such as the Caribbean, have opened up air services to competition and could be adopted here.

"Aviation services play a fundamental role in tying together far flung communities, and allowing business and social communication. These customers need services to be as safe, reliable and inexpensive as possible," Mr Slatyer said.

"By this time next week, we would hope to have agreement at Ministerial level on a wide range of strategies to advance the economic development of the region by improving the efficiency of the aviation sector," he said.

The regional aviation meetings begin with seminars and a workshop this week, ahead of a Forum Aviation Officials meeting on Saturday 30 April and Ministerial level meetings on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd May next week.

Further information: Ulafala Aiavao, Media Adviser TEL: (679) 220-220 John Townsend, Economic Infrastructure Adviser TEL: (679) 220-212

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