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NZ Condemns Hostage Taking In Solomon Islands

NEW ZEALAND CONDEMNS HOSTAGE TAKING IN SOLOMON ISLANDS

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today condemned the placing of Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu under house arrest at gunpoint this morning.

"Mr Ulufa'alu was made Prime Minister by legitmate and democratic process and should only lose his position in the same manner.

"The actions of those responsible, including the militant Malaitan Eagle Force, risk a broadening conflict, which in the worst scenario could involve civil war against the Guadalcanal miltant force, the Isatabu Freedom Movement.

"Promises have been made that immediate action will now be taken to return the Solomon Islands Government to proper constitutional process.

"This afternoon the Government caucus will be meeting to determine Mr Ulufa'alu's future status. We understand that Parliament is also to be called together tomorrow.

"New Zealand has been in contact with the spokesman for the MEF and the Deputy Prime Minister.

"We have urged all those involved to return to a constitutional settlement. The next 48 hours should indicate whether undertakings to do so will be honoured.

"New Zealand and Australia have a high-powered mission currently in Honiara to review the South Pacific and Commonwealth contribution to maintaining law and order in the Solomon Islands, in the face of criminal and opportunistic elements.

"We are also continuing to work with the Commonwealth to endeavour to get the parties together to resolve ethnic tensions by dialogue.

"These efforts will continue. In the end, however, as in Fiji, outside countries can only do so much to help resolve internal conflicts.

"A solution requires the will and determination on the part of the local groups if a civil war such as that in neighbouring Bougainville is to be avoided.

"New Zealand has been aware for some time of the situation developing in the Solomon Islands.

"A travel advisory was upgraded last week warning New Zealanders to avoid travel to the Solomons. I urge them to follow that advice.

"New Zealanders currently in the Solomon Islands are not thought to be at immediate risk. However, the situation is being monitored and a contingency plan is in place if New Zealand nationals need to be evacuated", Mr Goff concluded.

ENDS

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