Wed, 28 May 2008
PORT VILA, VANUATU ---- Leaders of the Pacific's larger Melanesian countries are holding their annual summit clouded by a row over the Indonesian province of West Papua, reports islandsbusiness.online.
Delegates that are in the Vanuatu capital Port Vila for the two day Melanesian summit that begins on Thursday are playing down the row simmering between host Vanuatu and their largest Melanesian member, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
“For PNG, the issue of West Papua is an issue that we don't consider as an issue to be brought into the MSG,” Sam Abal, PNG's foreign minister told islandbusiness.online.
“As a sovereign nation, Vanuatu can make them [West Papua] part of their delegation, but as an MSG issue that is something PNG won't allow because it's an internal issue that has a lot of ramifications.”
Supporters of the Free West Papua movement in Vanuatu had petitioned its government to push for the independent group to be granted observer status in the MSG.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group that had been meeting in Vanuatu have added their support for Australia to host next year's leaders' summit of the Pacific Islands Forum.
A motion of support was agreed at Tuesday's meeting at the Iririki Island Resort of the foreign ministers.
Hosting of the Forum summit is rotated among the 16-member Forum and while Niue is hosting this year's gathering, Vanuatu was supposed to host it in 2009.
But in one of his many announcements after winning the prime ministership last December, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had expressed the wish for him to host the annual hob-nob of Pacific island leaders in a Forum that also included Australia and New Zealand as members.