SOLOMONS SEEK MEETING WITH AUSSIE PRIME MINISTER

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 15) - The Solomon Islands Government yesterday announced a plan to have Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare hold face-to-face dialogue with his Australian counterpart, John Howard, to repair relations between the two countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Patterson Oti informed parliament yesterday of the plan when delivering a statement on the Bilateral Relations between the two countries.

He said despite of what appears to be a very negative situation, the government remains committed to re-establishing dialogue and realigning relationship with Australia - on the understanding that due respect be afforded to executive decisions made by the government with respect to national sovereignty.

"We are at present considering all possibilities including the proposal of a one to one dialogue between both Prime Ministers in an effort to establish a degree of resolve for the purpose of improving our diplomatic relationship," Oti said. "The Government is fully cognizant of the importance of improving the strained bilateral relations between Solomon Islands and Australia."

Details of the proposal were already communicated to Canberra through the Australian High Commission in Honiara yesterday.

Oti also announced the government’s intention to seek assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat for possible assistance to the dialogue process.

"I will be exploring with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, possibilities of involving them in brokering the dialogue process," Oti said.

He said the current standoff stems from certain sovereign decisions necessary to progress the nation as an independent self-governing democracy.

"What is democracy if aspects of this country’s decision making processes are constantly subjected to foreign interference? It must be clearly understood that without having taken such immediate and direct action it would be nearly impossible for the government to effectively assert its mandate to govern the country," he said.

He said a trend has been observed to be slowly developing whereby external elements, despite good or bad intentions, are slowly encroaching on matters of national sovereignty.

He said, "These are undermining the very principles of accountability, good governance and the rule of law as fundamental elements to a democratic society."

Oti said the Solomon Islands Government would always be prepared to accept advice and criticism from its friends and neighbors through the established diplomatic channels provided under the Vienna Convention, as opposed to being engaged by Canberra in media speculation and public ridicule.

The Government is looking forward to enhancing the relationship with a government, which respects the sovereign equality of States and recognizes the importance of treating each other as equals.

"We anticipate mending this relationship on the basis of mutual understanding and respect for each other’s sovereignty," Oti said.

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