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Visit to New Zealand - 21-24 January



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

Jjx AUSTRALIA A

FA3 20 January 1998

VISIT TO NEW ZEALAND - 21-24 JANUARY

1 will visit Christchurch, New Zealand between 21-24 January for the Bougainville Leaders’ meeting and biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Ministers’ talks.

My attendance at the Bougainville Leaders’ meeting follows my recent trip to Bougainville on 2 January where I met members of the Truce Monitoring Group, inspected Australian aid projects on the island and had productive meetings with representatives of the parties to the Burnham Truce.

Australia s support for, and presence at, the Leaders’ meeting underlines the importance the Australian Government attaches to a negotiated settlement between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the various Bougainvillean groups. The Bougainville peace process is an issue of the highest priority for the Australian Government and Australia stands ready to assist in the peace process.

At the meeting I will reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the Bougainville peace process and its strong interest in seeing a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

The Leaders’ meeting is an important opportunity for all parties to the Bougainville conflict to build on the significant progress in the peace process over the past six months. High on the agenda for discussions are the possibility of a permanent ceasefire, the future of the Truce Monitoring Group, in which Australia has played an important part, reconstruction and restoration of law and order on Bougainville.

The Australian Government has provided very strong support to the Bougainville peace process. With the assistance of the Australian Defence Force, Australia has organised transport for the two-hundred plus delegates attending the Officials’ and Leaders’ meetings in Christchurch, including for senior Ministers in the PNG and Solomon Islands Governments, as well as Leaders of the BRA/BIG and BTG. In late November, Australia hosted peace talks in Cairns which resulted in the "Cairns Commitment", an important milestone in the peace process.

In addition, Australia has committed $100 million over five years for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Bougainville province which is in addition to the current aid programme for Bougainville in excess of $30 million.

While in Christchurch on 22 January, I will meet Mr McKinnon for our regular biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Ministers’ Talks. We will discuss a range of important bilateral, regional and multilateral issues. We will also compare notes on our recent visits to

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Bougainville and discuss ways of ensuring that our two countries continue to work closely together to assist the peace process. In addition, we will exchange views on recent developments in Asia and their implications for the CER economies.

CANBERRA

Note to Chiefs of Staff and News Editors: A joint media conference will follow Mr Downer’s meeting with Mr McKinnon at 4:15 pm Thursday 22 January in Gallery Room C of the Park Royal Hotel, corner Kilmore and Durham streets, Christchurch.

For further information contact: Kirk Coningham (02) 6277 7500