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News briefs from PIF leaders meeting

Cooks to host next leaders meeting

The Cook Islands will be hosting the next Pacific Island leaders meeting in 2023 and will also take up the chairmanship.

Cook Islands special envoy for the prime minister, Tepaeru Herrmann said it was an honour to be the next host. She said the current secretary general Henry Puna was a true statesman and had guided the PIF in a manner good leaders would.

Cook Islands special envoy for the Prime Minister, Tepaeru Herrmann. Pic- Fijian Government

The Forum leaders also agreed that Tonga will hold the meeting in 2024.

NZ announces gender plan

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced New Zealand will make a significant contribution to support the implementation of the Fiji Gender Action Programme to advance women’s empowerment and social protection.

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a priority for Aotearoa New Zealand, and for our engagement in the Pacific,” Ms Ardern said.

“The recent Fiji Gender Assessment showed big gaps in pay between men and women amongst a range of other disparities – this funding will go towards programmes that help address the issues and inequalities the report highlighted.

New Zealand and Fijian delegations in bilateral talks – Fijian Government

“The Fiji Gender Action Programme — Marama Ni Viti — draws together support for a range of programmes into one plan and will receive a $12.6 million contribution to implement.

Funding will go to the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation as well as Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Women’s Fund Fiji, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and UN Women.

Tongans want consular service

 Tongans want consular services available at the new embassy announced by the United States Vice President Kamala Harris.

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The US has announced they will open embassies in Kiribati and Tonga.

For now, Tongans have to travel to Fiji to make visa applications and it has proven to be a costly affair for many.

Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni (R). Pic- Fijian Government

US Assistant Secretary Monica Medina told Tongan journalists that no concrete decisions had been made yet if visa processing services would be available. Even after a check with her officials she was informed that service is yet to be decided.

Both Kiribati and Tonga were visited by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during his travel in the Pacific. Kiribati for now has withdrawn from the Pacific Islands Forum and the US announcement of an embassy shows fears that China might have influenced that decision.

Vanuatu is MSG chair

 The Special Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit successfully concluded Wednesday with the handing over of the MSG Chairmanship from Papua New Guinea to Vanuatu in a moving ceremony in Fiji.

The Summit was attended by Fiji’s Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama; Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare; Vanuatu Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, James Marape, and Head of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) of New Caledonia, Victor Tutugoro.

Vanuatu PM Bob Loughman (R) with Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama. Pic- Fijian Government

Also in attendance were senior officials from the MSG countries.

Tuna treaty welcomed

Fijian Prime Minister and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Voreqe Bainimarama welcomed the United States renewed engagement to the region.

The US pledged assistance of US$60 million on the Tuna Treaty in next 10 years, a total of US$600 million.

“USA has long been a Pacific power –– your comprehensive remarks and commitment show that America is prepared to become a Pacific partner like never before. And we appreciate your clear response on the U.S Government contribution under the Treaty,” said Mr Bainimarama.

Forum chair and Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Pic- Fijian Government

“Your readiness to request from U.S. Congress, US$60 million per year for the next ten years in connection with a new Economic Assistance Agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency is a powerful commitment. If finalised, I am sure that everyone gathered here can agree that it would be a significant milestone in the relationship between the US and Pacific.”

The Tuna Treaty with the US expires at the end of the year and it looks as if it will be signed again.

Fiji and Solomons demarcate boundaries

 Fiji and the Solomon Islands have signed a Maritime Boundaries Delimitation Agreement, to demarcate their shared maritime boundaries.

The agreement was signed by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare at the Blue Pacific High-Level Panel Event on Ocean Leadership along the margins of the 51st PIF Leaders Meeting.

“The Agreement establishes our countries’ respective maritime zones in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and today marks a promising step towards a brighter and bluer future for Fiji and the Solomon Islands,” said Mr Bainimarama.

Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama with Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogovare at the Grand Pacific Hotel where they signed documents to demaracate boundaries. Picture Fijian Government

Ongoing negotiations and bilateral discussions between officials from the two countries led to this signing with technical support provided by the Pacific Community (SPC) under the Pacific Maritime Boundaries Project and with assistance from Development Partners (the Consortium).

The agreement sets out the intersecting maritime boundaries of Fiji and the Solomon Islands in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which both countries are a party to.

Australia, China and the Pacific

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi just before coming to the Forum leaders meeting.

The two sides have also communicated on affairs related to Pacific nations. Mr Wang stressed that China and the Pacific nations were sovereign and independent countries. He said they have carried out equal-footed exchanges and cooperation at the request of the Pacific nations in accordance with the needs of their people.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with China before the Forum. Picture: Penny Wong Facebok

He said China has also carried out tripartite cooperation with countries including Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific region, which has yielded positive results.

China has announced that they are ready to leverage the respective strengths of all parties to achieve win-win outcomes.

Kiribati gets more drought help from Australia

Australia will provide a further AU$2 million to help Kiribati to maintain drinking water supply during the state of disaster relating to drought.

Kiribati is experiencing acute water shortages resulting from a prolonged La Nina weather pattern and low rainfall.

This funding package will enable the installation of a high quality desalination plant for Tarawa, delivery of generators and technical, operations and maintenance services for the new plant in a joint contribution with New Zealand.

Australian Minister for Pacific Pat Conroy at the Forum (fourth from right). From left is NZ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremaia Manele. Picture Pat Conroy MP Twitter

There will also be provision for transportation links (chartered flights and Australian Defence Force cargo flights) that will enable Australia and international partners to assist Kiribati’s drought response.

This will help provide portable water storage bladders and flatbed trucks to support water distribution into local communities.

This support builds on Australia’s $675,000 contribution announced on June 16 to install 100 solar distillation units to convert well water into safe drinking water, and support local partners to promote sustainable and inclusive access to water.

NZ gives $10m for biodiversity

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a NZ$10 million fund towards conserving Pacific crop seeds and researching climate-resilient varieties.

Ms Ardern and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta made the announcement at the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva.

NZ$5m will go to the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) for the next five years. Its labs work to conserve 17 Pacific crops including yam, coconut and 70 per cent of the world’s taro varieties, since 1998.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing the $10 million aid to CePaCT. Picture SPC

The other NZ$5m will be provided to the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

Ms Ardern said this was an important project not for New Zealand alone but for the Pacific as well.

“We are making sure that we are investing into those initiatives that are going to give us climate resilience. Climate resilience to the changing environment to severe weather events, potentially to severe droughts, it is very important for the region,” she said.

The aim of CePaCT is to assist Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs) to conserve the region’s genetic resources, and to provide access to the diversity they need, when they need it.

Ardern to meet Sogovare

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be meeting with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovare for bilateral discussions during the Forum leaders meeting.

Ms Ardern has indicated that she has had prior discussions with Mr Sogovare and felt that he was genuine about his public statements regarding the security deal.

She said she would be holding discussions regarding security and perhaps what New Zealand could do to help the nation.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovare will meet with Jacinda Ardern for bilateral talks. Picture SPC

Ms Ardern said she was hoping for fruitful discussions with Mr Sogovare.

Following this, she will be having bilateral talks with Fijian Prime Minister and chair of the Forum Voreqe Bainimarama.

She said her discussions at these talks will concentrate on the Suva Agreements and how New Zealand could help with supporting Fiji’s role as chair.

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