ACP: FIJI PM QARASE SET TO STEP ONTO INTERNATIONAL STAGE

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PUNTA, Cana, Dominican Republic (June 30, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase -- in under three weeks -- will take on his biggest international role yet: the presidency at the 78-nation African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Summit.

The current ACP president, Dominican Republic President Rafael Hipolito Mejia, will hand over the presidency to Mr. Qarase when Fiji hosts this group of nations' 3rd summit, July 16-19.

Said the head of the Fiji Mission to the European Union (EU), Ambassador Isikeli Mataitoga, as he looked ahead to the summit being held at the Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau Island, Nadi: "Fiji and the PM will definitely have a much bigger international profile."

This profile will come not only when Mr. Qarase chairs the summit, officials attending ACP and ACP-EU ministerial meetings in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, said.

It will also come when he speaks on behalf of the ACP internationally as the group becomes a growing voice for the developing world.

The ACP began as a trade and aid partner of the European Union (EU) in what has become one of the world's most successful development partnerships.

But the central theme of the Nadi summit -- ACP Solidarity in a Globalized World -- reflects the group's increasing role, the officials said.

The theme was chosen so ACP leaders can examine all avenues to strengthen ACP solidarity, they said.

Recent examples given of this include:

§ At the 4th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, held in Doha last year, the ACP group spoke as a single voice. It highlighted the outcome of discussions of its Libreville and Santo Domingo summits.

§ The ACP group is now working together preparing for August's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In a message about the Nadi summit, Mr. Qarase said the ACP group needs to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by globalization.

He said: "To this end, the 3rd Summit will also assess the potential threats, and, in particular, focus on the main challenges facing the ACP Group of States and all developing countries.

"Namely, the eradication of poverty and the creation of an environment favorable to sustainable development."

Mr. Qarase said the Nadi Summit will be the first opportunity for ACP Heads of State and Government to meet in the new millennium.

"I am convinced that this meeting could not have been scheduled at a more appropriate time," he said.

"Our heads of state and government will have the opportunity to examine the profound changes that have occurred in the international environment, evaluate the outcomes of important international meetings, prepare and arrive at a common ACP position for forthcoming global events."

He said, in particular, the Nadi Summit will focus on an ACP position for:

- the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

- guidelines for the important ACP-EU negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), scheduled to commence in Brussels on 27 September.

The summit would also assess the state of and future role of the ACP Group of States in the evolving international order.

Ambassador Mataitoga was in Punta Cana as part of a strong Fiji team headed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Kaliopate Tavola and Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ratu Isoa Gavidi.

They conferred with other ACP delegations on arrangements for the Nadi summit as well as taking part in the ACP and ACP-EU ministerial meetings.

Nothing is being left to chance as Fiji prepares to take its place at the top table of the ACP. Ambassador Mataitoga's tasks included a step-by-step briefing for President Mejia on the Fijian ceremonies of welcome he will get at Nadi.

 

EAST TIMOR HEADS FOR THE NADI ACP SUMMIT

PUNTA, Cana, Dominican Republic (June 29, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---East Timor will make its Pacific Islands debut at the big African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group summit in Nadi, Fiji, under three weeks from now.

The ACP council of ministers, meeting in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, approved the newly independent nation being given observer status with the 78-nation group.

East Timor's representative, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Jose Luis Guterres, was welcomed to the ACP during ceremonies attended by Dominican Republic Vice President Dr. Milagros Ortiz Bosch.

The question now: Will East Timor's President, the former freedom fighter Xana Gusmao, c me to Nadi himself for the July 16-19 summit of ACP heads of state and government?

That's quite possible, said Fiji's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Isoa Gavidi, in Punta Cana.

Ratu Isoa was recently in Dili for East Timor's independence celebrations, following Portuguese colonial rule and then 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

"They are keen," Ratu Isoa said of East Timor's interest in linking up with the Pacific. "They see themselves as part of the region.

"We share a lot of things. There is some empathy culturally."

The 800,000 mainly Christian East Timorese are just across the Arafura Sea from Papua New Guinea. Fiji and Papua New Guinea are among the new nation's regional supporters.

Observer status is the first step to East Timor's possible membership in the ACP, which has a major aid and trade partnership with the European Union (EU).

The Nadi summit - the third the ACP will have held - is expected to draw presidents and prime ministers from throughout the developing world.

ACP and EU ministers are currently in Punta Cana for the 75th session of the ACP Council of Ministers and the 27th session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org

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