Solomon Islands Talks At Critical Stage - Goff
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
9 October 2000
SOLOMON ISLANDS TALKS AT CRITICAL STAGE - GOFF
Foreign Minister Phil Goff described peace talks starting tomorrow in Townsville between the two rival ethnic factions and Solomon Islands government representatives as critically important.
"These efforts towards peace will take place against a backdrop of a deteriorating law and order situation. This includes increased criminal activity and armed hold-ups.
"The longer it takes the leaders and militants to reach resolution, the deeper Honiara sinks into anarchy.
“Parts of Honiara have continued to experience intermittent power and water shortages. Telephone and banking services are operating but their disruption cannot be discounted and this could have serious implications for security.
"New Zealand will help the peace process by providing a Hercules to transport participants to Townsville," Mr Goff said.
“There are some major issues that need to be dealt with before the current ceasefire can be translated into a meaningful peace.
"These include restructuring of the Police Force, which is currently comprised of a mixture of police and Malaitan militants, the issue of disarmament, and the need to reach agreement on matters relating to compensation for land.
"None of these issues will be resolved quickly or easily and I expect there may be a need for more than one round of peace talks.
"The provision in August of the New Zealand ship HMNZS Te Kaha as a neutral venue was a crucial factor in bringing the warring factions together. We hope the Townsville peace talks will take the peace process a step further.
“I urge all the parties to the talks to make every effort to achieve real progress over the next few days so that the people of Solomon Islands can start the huge task of both reconciliation and rebuilding their homes and their livelihoods.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has updated its travel advisory to the Solomon Islands warning against all non-essential travel.
Mr Goff said that New Zealanders living in the Solomon Islands should keep themselves informed of the current security situation and any changes to the international flight services in and out of the Solomon Islands.