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NZ Peace Monitoring Team To Solomons Approved

Cabinet has approved in principle that New Zealand should participate in an international peace monitoring team in the Solomon Islands, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff said this afternoon.

He said the particulars of New Zealand’s contribution had not yet been decided, but said we would likely contribute 10-20 personnel to an unarmed force of around 100 for the region.

Mr Goff said the agreement reached in Australia yesterday, in which opposing militant groups the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Movement agreed to surrender their weapons within 30 days and undertake peaceful negotiations, was the best chance yet for a lasting agreement. Representatives from the Solomon Islands Government also signed the agreement.

Mr Goff said the first responsibility of the peace monitoring team would be to receive weapons from the militant groups. He said other responsibilities would include assessing the area’s law and order, helping with the training of police, and reporting on the implementation of the peace agreement.

“The challenge is to translate the agreement into action on the ground,” he said.

Mr Goff said the cost of New Zealand’s contribution to the peace monitoring group would come out of funds of around $8 million already earmarked for aid to the Solomon Islands.

He said New Zealand’s contribution only comes with an assurance of safety for New Zealand personnel.

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