Cooks PM To ‘Chat’ With NZ Counterpart About UN Bid

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Puna, Key likely to meet on sidelines of Forum meeting in PNG

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept. 7, 2015) – A ‘chat’ with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on the controversial Cook Islands’ bid for a seat on the United Nations could be on the cards for Prime Minister Henry Puna at the Pacific Islands Forum which is being held in Papua New Guinea this week.

The 46th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting got under way in Port Moresby this morning with climate change, the tense situations in both West Papua and Nauru set to be the priorities on the agenda.

However, Puna is hoping to find an opportunity to discuss his government’s push to become a member of the United Nations with Key, who will be attending the summit.

The bid has caused widespread debate and has been blocked by New Zealand, who has said this would require reconsideration of Cook Islanders’ New Zealand citizenship.

Puna told CI News last week the UN membership bid was not mentioned during his state visit to New Zealand two weeks ago.

"No, it was not brought up in our bilateral talks, we thought, ‘look we were invited by the Government of New Zealand to celebrate with New Zealand and with our communities’, and in that spirit of celebrations, we put it aside until next time.

"I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time in Papua New Guinea to have a chat with both the Prime Minister and (New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs) Murray McCully."

The countries still remain firmly aligned, with Puna confirming the Cook Islands will take the same stance as New Zealand on the situation West Papua at the forum.

"Our position as we discussed with Prime Minister Key will be aligned with the New Zealand position so we will touch base either on the trip to Papua New Guinea from Auckland or at the Forum," he said last week.

Minister of Finance Mark Brown said the governments’ positions on both West Papua and Nauru would probably be centred on the human rights issues.

The Papua conflict is an ongoing conflict between the Indonesian government and sections of the indigenous populations of West Papua in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua on the island of New Guinea.

There have been widespread recordings of human rights abuses of West Papuan people at the hands of the Indonesian government.

And international concern has drawn attention to Nauru, where the rule of law is reportedly seriously under threat as its government has expelled five of seven opposition Members of parliament from its parliament.

More recently the Nauruan government has reportedly shut off access to Facebook and amended the criminal code to create an imprisonable offence of threatening public order and other restrictions on freedom of expression and the press. The 46th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting runs until Friday.

Puna is accompanied by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration secretary Myra Patai pacific division director Jim Armistead and Ministry of Marine Resources secretary Ben Ponia.

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