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New Zealand welcomes step to Bougainville autonomy

New Zealand welcomes step to Bougainville autonomy

The passing of the first stage of legislation to set up an autonomous Bougainville was another good step forward, acting Foreign Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The Papua New Guinea Parliament voted in favour of the Bougainville legislation during a special session held yesterday, supporting the constitutional amendments establishing an autonomous Bougainville Government and provide for a referendum on its future political status, including the possibility of independence.

Mr Sutton said that while the legislation was due to go before the Papua New Guinean Parliament again for a second reading in two months' time, yesterday's result was the latest positive development in the Bougainville peace process.

"The challenge is now on leaders, ex-combatants and their communities in Bougainville to maintain their commitment to the weapons disposal process. Good progress in this vital part of the peace process will encourage a positive outcome to the second and final readings of the Bougainville legislation."

New Zealand remains committed to assist with the weapons disposal process. In addition to funding containers for the first stage of weapons collection, four New Zealand Defence Force personnel left this week to join the Australian-led Peace Monitoring Group to help Bougainville collect and contain weapons left over from the civil war.

Mr Sutton encouraged the national government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville leaders and communities, and contributing countries to the Peace Monitoring Group and the United Nations, to actively push the peace process forward.

"The peace process is now into its final stages and Wednesday's vote means we can look forward to the next votes on the legislation with confidence."

ENDS

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