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Solomons: PM Sikua Meets Australian Counterpart

Prime Minister Sikua Meets Australian Counterpart

Prime Minister Hon Derek Sikua yesterday met his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd in Canberra in a move to mend strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Relations between the two countries were strained over the past year during the leadership of former Prime Ministers Manasseh Sogavare and John Howard.

The two leaders openly disagreed on certain issues including the Julian Moti issue, the declaration of former Australia’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Patrick Cole as a persona non grata and former police commissioner as a prohibited immigrant, as well as issues relating to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI.

Prime Minister Sikua took immediate steps to ensure the relations normalized after coming to power in December.

Following Wednesday’s talks Mr Sikua was confident the meeting was very positive.

He said his meeting with Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was very fruitful and positive.

“What transpired in our meeting today, (Wednesday) was, I believe that we have turned a new page in our bilateral relations with Australia in that our relations have been mended and we are looking forward to very fruitful and cordial relationships with Australia in the future,” the Prime Minister said.

Hon. Sikua said Australia is keen to engage with Solomon Islands in dialogue and consultations.

He said Prime Minister Rudd has expressed willingness to visit Solomon Islands in early March this year, to further discuss matters with the Solomon Islands government.

Hon. Sikua said he believed that during his visit in March, Mr Rudd would be keen to discuss with relevant ministers the areas for further consultation and negotiations in our bilateral relations.

Some of the specific issues raised by Mr Sikua in his meeting with Mr Rudd include health, education and infrastructure development sectors.

The two leaders also discussed the issue of labour mobility, on the need to increase the number of training for Solomon Islanders in Australia, as well as the issue of establishing an Australia-Solomon Islands Ministerial Forum, and the issue of granting the Fifth Freedom Rights for Solomon Airlines to operate air services between Australia and Vanuatu.

Prime Minister Sikua said much of his discussions with Mr Rudd centered on the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI.

Prime Minister Sikua said he was happy that Australia’s Prime Minister has seen the importance of RAMSI to Solomon Islands.

“The response to the specific issues that I have raised during our discussions has also been very positive,” the Prime Minister said.

The two leaders have also briefly touched on the issue of Julian Moti and his deportation to Australia.

Dr Sikua confirmed that Mr Rudd was very pleased with the quick action by Solomon Islands to deport Mr Moti to face charges in Australia.

“Only that Mr Rudd has thanked us for moving quickly with the deportation of Moti to Australia to face the charges that he has been charged with and we hope that now that the matter is before the courts, and that the courts can conclude the issue.”

Prime Minister Sikua left Australia for Auckland New Zealand this morning to meet Helen Clark on Friday.

End

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