Progress Made To Resolve Solomons, Fiji Air Services Dispute

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Foreign Ministers hold first meeting since Solomons election

By Eddie Osifelo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 8, 2015) – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Milner Tozaka on Wednesday discussed the long standing air impasse with his Fijian counterpart Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Honiara.

The long-drawn air services impasse between the two countries has irked the travelling public since last year.

Mr Tozaka earlier told the Solomon Star he is treating the standing issue a priority after his appointment.

"I am happy with the progress.

"I am expected to come up with further information to keep the public inform in two to three days time of the positive development with my approach to resolve the outstanding issue," he said.

Mr Tozaka added the service agreement was signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both countries; therefore a solution can be reached between them.

Yesterday, the visiting Fiji Foreign Minister met with Mr Tozaka during which the two reportedly discussed the problem.

The Solomon Islands government had sent a delegation to Fiji last year to resolve the impasse in two dialogues, but the talks failed to come up with a legally binding agreement.

Mr Tozaka believes through his approach, a positive solution can be reached between the two Melanesian countries.

The impasse, which began in July last year, occurred when Solomon Islands authorities refused a request from Fiji Airways for a direct Saturday flight Nadi-Honiara-Nadi.

Fiji claimed Solomon Islands breached an agreement covering this and retaliated by cancelling all existing Solomon Airlines flights to Nadi.

Fiji Airways was operating a Tuesday schedule Nadi-Port Vila-Honiara-Port Vila-Nadi when the impasse started.

In the meantime, Air Nuigini is operating a direct return service between Honiara and Nadi, which started on Christmas last year.

The intervention had relieved the travelling public, most of whom were being forced to travel via Brisbane or Port Vila before connecting to Nadi.

The extra routes have born more costs on them because they have to pay extra money to connect through Vanuatu or an Australian visa to get a connection flight at Brisbane.

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