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Goff Welcomes The Surrender Of Solomons Weapons

Goff Welcomes The Surrender Of Solomon Islands Weapons

The surrender of more than 800 weapons since the Townsville Peace Agreement in October is a welcome step", said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Phil Goff.

"Taking these weapons out of circulation and away from young fighters who have increasingly used them for criminal activities can only contribute to stability in the country. It represents a commitment to moving the Solomon Islands peace process forward.

"But there is still a long way to go. Most guns handed in are homemade. Only around 90 military style weapons have been surrendered so far. The fact that more than 500 remain in the hands of militants is an ongoing cause for concern.

"While they remain at large, it will be difficult for the Solomons Islands to reinstate proper law and order on which peace and economic recovery depends", said Mr Goff.

The Townsville Peace Agreement signed in Australia two months ago requires former militant commanders to surrender their weapons to members of the International Peace Monitoring Team in which 14 Kiwis are currently serving.

Friday 15 December marked a deadline for the surrender of weapons formerly held by militant groups in Solomon Islands. In return ex-combatants will receive amnesty for their part in the tribal conflict.

"I strongly urge all parties to honour their commitment and redouble efforts to find ways of encouraging their former members to continue to surrender their weapons," said Mr Goff.

"I discussed the situation in the Solomon Islands with my Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, during our talks in the Bay of Islands last week.

"We agreed that providing social and economic assistance to the Solomons Islands Government would be difficult while the safety of staff cannot be assured. That largely depends on the surrender of weapons by the militants.

"I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Solomon Islanders want peace and to begin the reconstruction of their country's economy. Violence and instability this year have brought the country to the brink of economic collapse. Solomon Islanders and the international community both need to pressure the militants to pass on their weapons so the process of economic recovery can proceed and people can begin to get their lives back together," Mr Goff said.

Ends

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