UPDATE: SOLOMON ISLANDS PEACE SUMMIT CANCELLED

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 13, 2000 - Radio Australia)---A planned Easter peace summit in the Solomon Islands has been abandoned.

From Honiara, Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Kevin McQuillan reports that the cancellation of the summit is a setback for the peace process.

"The Commonwealth Special Envoy, Sitiveni Rabuka, made the announcement as his deputy, Ade Adefuye, was meeting with members of the Isatambu Freedom Fighters movement in their rural stronghold on Guadalcanal.

"General Rabuka said he was forced to abandon the meeting for logistical reasons -- the failure to find a neutral venue and at a time acceptable to all.

He said he wants to assure the people of the Solomon Islands that efforts to convene a meeting are continuing. However, militant leaders have made it clear, he said, that they want guarantees that they will not be arrested if they attend the summit. It is believed this is the main stumbling block in convening an all-party meeting.

"The national government has outlawed both the Isatambu Freedom Fighters movement and the Malaitan Eagle Force.

"Kevin McQuillan, Radio Australia News, Honiara."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

BACKGROUND

LOCATION FOR PLANNED SOLOMON ISLANDS PEACE SUMMIT DECIDED

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 14, 2000 - Radio Australia/Radio New Zealand International)---The organizers of a proposed peace summit aimed at ending the ethnic unrest on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands have arranged for the conflicting parties to hold preliminary discussions at a neutral site at Buala, the capital of Isabel province.

Malaitan Premier David Oeta said the preliminary talks would be followed by a more comprehensive summit in about two months at an undecided overseas venue.

Oeta said the key difference with these talks compared with previous efforts to end the unrest is the support for including representatives of the militant groups.

But he said the rebels will not appear as separate factions, but rather as members of the provincial delegations.

"Our proposal is not to isolate another party, but they should become a part of the provincial delegations," he said. "There will be someone representing Malaitan Eagles and (therefore) will become part of the delegation from Malaitan province."

Oeta also commended the New Zealand government for taking a leading role in brokering the peace summit.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Solomon Islands has been consulting Guadalcanal, the Malaitan provincial government, and the national government in staging the peace summit to resolve the ethnic problems involving land rights and jobs.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff as well as Australia Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said they will offer more resources to help the mediation work of the Commonwealth envoy, Fiji's Sitiveni Rabuka.

The two Foreign Ministers have pledged support for the peace summit to be held away from the Solomons capital.

Senior Australian officials visited Solomon Islands last week and will return this weekend.

Australia is promising to strengthen the Solomons police force with a three-year project; pay for extra police from Fiji and Vanuatu to assist Rabuka; give further help to the Red Cross in dealing with the disruption caused by ethnic violence; and assist the Solomons government in reviewing the constitution.

Oeta said money spent on organizing meetings to find peaceful solutions to the ethnic problems, which have already seriously affected the nation, is money well spent.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Solomon Islands have confirmed the death of at least one man in a shooting battle between Malaitan and Guadalcanal militants west of Guadalcanal.

Members of the Malaita Eagle Force are reported to have attacked a village in the Kakabona area near Honiara around midday, engaging Guadalcanal militants in a shootout.

The commander of the multinational police peace monitors, Savenaca Tuivaga, said the shooting continued until late afternoon.

Police said the man killed was from Visale, northwest Guadalcanal.

Militants on Guadalcanal have been blamed for trying to drive people from neighboring Malaita off the island.

The ethnic conflict has resulted in the death or disappearance of about 40 people in the past 18 months.

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