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visit to PNG, Solomon islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA150 9 December 1998

VISIT TO PNG, SOLOMON ISLANDS, KIRIBATI, TUVALU AND FIJI

From 10 to 18 December I will undertake an official visit to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji.

The visit builds on my previous three visits to the Pacific region as Minister for Foreign Affairs. It will reaffirm the Australian Government’s strong commitment to the region, and emphasise the importance Australia attaches to long term constructive bilateral relations with the Pacific island countries. The visit will also be an opportunity to highlight Australia’s medium-term development assistance objectives and priorities, and to further our cooperation with five fellow members of the South Pacific Forum on regional and international issues.

In Papua New Guinea I will open a newly constructed hospital and up-graded airstrip on Buka Island, both completed with assistance from the Australian Government as part of the Bougainville rehabilitation program. En route to Buka I’ll take the opportunity to meet PNG ministers during an overnight stop in Port Moresby.

The Solomon Islands Government has played a constructive role in facilitating discussion in the Bougainville peace process and I look forward to expressing our appreciation to Prime Minister Ulufa’alu for his efforts on this issue and exploring avenues for taking the process forward. I will discuss with the Prime Minister and other Ministers Australia’s support of the

Policy and Structural Reform Program and other bilateral issues. I will visit the Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara to express our support for regional fisheries management objectives, including establishment of a Vessel Monitoring System.

My visits to Kiribati, where President Tito has just been re-elected and a new government sworn in, and to Tuvalu will allow discussion of bilateral relations, and follow up matters I discussed with the respective leaders at the Pohnpei South Pacific Forum in August, including the particular environmental concerns facing these atoll states. ยท

In Fiji I will attend the annual Australia Fiji Ministerial Talks to be held in Nadi on 18 December. The annual talks provide an opportunity for regular and systematic high level discussion on bilateral and regional issues affecting our two countries. During my visit I will sign a number of agreements on aid and other matters, and launch Australia’s new Pacific Islands Development Strategy, the first comprehensive medium-term strategy for Australia’s aid to Pacific island countries.

Media Inquiries: Ministerial - Innes Willox (02)6277 7500 or 0419 206 890 Departmental - Tony Melville/Geoff Leach (02) 6261 1555

Media releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet. http://www.dfat.gov.au/