U.S., MARSHALL ISLANDS NEGOTIATORS CLAIM COMPACT PROGRESS

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (December 28, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---U.S. and Marshall Islands Compact funding negotiators met in Honolulu earlier this month in a session that both sides said " significantly advanced the negotiating process."

A joint statement signed by RMI Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios and U.S. Compact negotiators Albert Short said that " the U.S. government delegation commended the RMI government on the timely delivery of its professional proposal."

The statement continued: " The U.S. government agreed to take into account the RMI’s Compact proposal when preparing a draft text of the Compact. It is hoped that the draft text will be available before the next round of negotiations, tentatively scheduled for February."

During the two-day (December 11 and 12) session in Honolulu, the RMI government reviewed active steps it is taking to address accountability issues identified by the U.S. government.

"The US government was pleased by the RMI government’s commitments, as reflected in its Compact proposal, to strengthen accountability, transparency and fiscal management, " the statement said. "Both sides agreed to work together to strengthen future financial monitoring mechanisms."

The U.S. presented three draft subsidiary agreements -- related to services provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the US postal Service -- for consideration.

The US also presented information about the Defense Department’s Civil and Humanitarian Assistance Program.

The RMI promised to review the draft agreements and respond as quickly as possible. The US also asked the RMI to consider whether the diplomatic training program is necessary and appropriate in the future.

Lawyers from both sides met during the meetings to consider what provisions of the Compact need to be revised, can remain the same or are no longer necessary. They are also deciding if additional subsidiary agreements need to be addressed during negotiations.

The RMI government expressed its hope that the Bush Administration will evaluate the RMI government’s " changed circumstances" petition related to nuclear testing. The U.S. delegation believes that U.S. Congressional consideration of the revised Compact will provide an opportunity for the RMI government to highlight the petition to Congress, the statement said.

"The U.S. delegation also said that the Administration is prepared to evaluate the contents of the petition if requested by Congress," the statement said.

The negotiators also discussed priority areas identified by the RMI for possible future U.S. assistance, such as the special needs of Ebeye and other Kwajalein communities, as well as a Kwajalein Trust Fund.

The RMI negotiators also raised the possible extension of the military use agreement for Kwajalein. The U.S. said that if the RMI formulates a specific proposal for an extension, the U.S. will consider it in connection with its future requirements.

Education, health, infrastructure and environmental protection were again jointly identified as priority areas for future assistance, the statement said.

"The U.S. delegation was also encouraged by the RMI’s ongoing initiatives to enhance private sector development," it said.

The delegations agreed to identify all federal programs and services currently being provided by the U.S. government and to consider them in conjunction with the renegotiation of the expiring funding provisions of Title II of the Compact. The RMI also proposed to review current federal programs to determine whether to seek additional programs.

The statement said that "both delegations are mindful of the need to conclude negotiations by summer."

The next round of talks is tentatively scheduled for February in the Marshall Islands. Technical meetings will proceed in the interim as needed.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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