PNG Looking To Mend Fences With Canberra

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, November 20) – Papua New Guinea's new Foreign Affairs Minister Paul Tiensten announced at the weekend that he will be offering ‘an olive branch’ to Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer in the next few days to mend the strained Australia-PNG relationship caused by the Julian Moti affair.

"This is the right thing to do. We cannot allow trivial matters to strain our long and healthy relationship," Mr Tiensten said on his return from Vanuatu last Saturday.

Mr Tiensten was appointed as Foreign Affairs Minister last week with the specific task of restoring the relationship between both countries.

He stressed that it was important for him to immediately re-engage and build a bridge for dialogue with Mr Downer.

The once excellent PNG-Australia relationship was tainted by the Moti case.

Mr Tiensten said he would ensure that the ban on travel to Australia by leaders and senior bureaucrats be lifted to allow important meetings such as the Mining and Petroleum Conference in Sydney and the PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum in Kokopo to take place next month.

Mr Tiensten said the people of PNG and Australia had a long history of association and engagement in politics and business.

"As leaders, we must show leadership and responsibility to re-engage in dialogue and deal with issues that confront our two governments and peoples.

"We cannot afford to allow issues of trivial importance to taint our long lasting partnership."

Mr Teinsten made the statement to undertake positive re-engagement with Australia following positive reports that the Australian government had reacted positively to the statement by the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to parliament on the Moti case.

Mr Teinsten also met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare while transiting to PNG.

They discussed the Moti case and the PNG Government’s position on the issue.

He also said PNG was committed to be part of RAMSI in the Solomon Islands.

Mr Tiensten and Fisheries Minister Ben Semri were in Vanuatu for the update meeting of the Pacific ACP meeting.


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