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Te Kaha To Help Build Peace In The Solomons

HMNZS Te Kaha arrived in the Solomon Islands yesterday where it will provide a neutral and secure venue for initial peace talks to end the bloody conflict there, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

"The deployment of Te Kaha will help the Solomon Islands Government bring the parties to the negotiating table and build on the momentum of the 3 August ceasefire.

"Te Kaha’s first task will be to host a National Peace Conference, organised by the Solomon Islands Christian Association. The meeting will bring together more than 100 representatives of civil society, including churches, women’s groups, community organisations and business groups from across the Solomon Islands, with members of central and provincial governments.

"This is an opportunity for New Zealand to help civil society, rather than warring factions, take a leading role in setting the agenda for peace.

"As well as providing a venue for the conference New Zealand is meeting transport and accommodation costs for the participants, some of whom have travelled from distant provinces.

"After the National Peace Conference, Te Kaha will host working group meetings involving the rival militant groups and government officials. They will begin to tackle the difficult and complex issues on the peace process agenda such as compensation, amnesty and disarmament.

"We expect the meetings will lead to further detailed negotiations offshore, most likely in Cairns in September or October.

Mr Goff said that the conflict in the Solomon Islands has so far resulted in around eighty deaths and widespread social and economic dislocation.

"The ceasefire has been breached on a number of occasions since its signature three weeks ago. But there still seems a sense of hope that a momentum towards peace will be maintained. We will do all we can to support the efforts of the people and government of the Solomon Islands to bring peace to their country and rebuild their lives.

"Te Kaha’s involvement is a tangible commitment by New Zealand towards peace building in our region,” Mr Goff concluded.

ENDS


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