FORUM FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTERS MEETING

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SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT August 11, 2000

August 10-11, 2000
Apia, Samoa

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT

The Forum Foreign Affairs Ministers met in Apia, Samoa August 11-12, 2000 to discuss the Forum’s role in regional security and a possible response to the Fiji and Solomon Islands crises.

Those who attended were Foreign Affairs Ministers from Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Tuvalu was represented by their High Commissioner from Suva.

Ministers addressed the current regional security environment as well as the national impacts and regional consequences of recent unlawful armed actions in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

Ministers discussed an analysis of the underlying causes of conflict in the region and considered the relevant outcomes of recent meetings of the Forum Regional Security Committee and Forum Economic Ministers Meeting.

Representatives of Fiji and the Solomon Islands made statements on the situation in their countries.

Ministers recognized the need for regional action to be taken on the basis of all members of the Forum being part of the Pacific Islands extended family. This includes constructive efforts to address difficult and sensitive issues including underlying causes of tensions and conflicts (ethnicity, socio-economic disparities, lack of good governance, land disputes and given an erosion of cultural values).

Foreign Ministers expressed concern about the widespread availability of firearms throughout the region and noted that definite proposals would be placed before this years Forum in Kiribati in October to address this issue.

Ministers welcomed the conclusion of a ceasefire agreement on August 2 in the Solomon Islands and urged all parties to abide fully by its provisions to ensure a lasting peace and successful reconstruction efforts. Ministers thanked Australia and New Zealand for facilitating negotiations and agreed that Forum members would support the Solomon Islands in its peace and reconstruction efforts.

Ministers condemned the use of force to overthrow a constitutionally elected government and welcomed the arrest and other actions taken against those directly involved in the taking of hostages and other unlawful acts. Ministers noted progress made in Fiji in the restoration of law and order in the wake of recent unrest. The Fiji interim civilian government was urged to move rapidly to restore constitutional processes and protections and to hold elections within the shortest possible time frame in order to establish a democratic mandate. Ministers agreed to support Fiji in its efforts in post-conflict resolution and economic recovery.

Ministers welcomed the proposed Ministerial group drawn from Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, led by Papua New Guinea and including the Federated States of Micronesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu, which will shortly undertake a fact finding visit to Fiji and the Solomon Islands. The Ministerial group will report to relevant ACP/EU bodies with a report to Forum members.

Ministers agreed to recommend to the Forum meeting in Tarawa that Leaders commit themselves and their countries to a number of fundamental principles and courses of action.

Ministers agreed to develop a process for responding to members’ requests for assistance, or in times of crisis where Forum principles have been violated

Ministers agreed to establish a working group, made up of Suva-based Forum officials as core members, to further develop principles and options for consideration by Leaders in Kiribati.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj 

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