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New High Commissioner to Vanuatu

Career diplomat Brian Smythe will be New Zealand's next High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said Vanuatu was a close Pacific neighbour and we enjoyed a warm bilateral relationship.

"Our two countries cooperate on a number of regional and international issues, including peacekeeping - for example the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville, the International Peace Monitoring Team in the Solomon Islands and the UN mission in East Timor.

"Vanuatu also makes a significant contribution through its membership of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Commonwealth."

Mr Sutton said those links with Vanuatu were reinforced by bilateral trade and by defence cooperation.

"Our exports to Vanuatu have risen by almost 40 percent since 1999 and are now worth more than $15.5m annually. New Zealand's defence forces recently conducted Operation Tropic Twilight on Malekula with local and French military forces, constructing local schools, repairing Norsup Hospital and providing medical assistance."

Mr Smythe served previously as High Commissioner to Vanuatu from 1993 to 1996. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1972 and has served in Geneva, Brussels and Moscow. He is currently New Zealand's High Commissioner in Nuku'alofa, Tonga.

"Mr Smythe's Pacific experience, in particular from his previous time in Port Vila, will be a valuable asset as New Zealand looks to help Vanuatu reach its development potential and avoid the sort of difficulties experienced by neighbouring countries," Mr Sutton said.

Mr Smythe takes over in October from current High Commissioner Rob Taylor who is returning to Wellington.

ENDS

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