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Pacific leaders seek strong regional solidarity

James Marape in a virtual conference (Prime Ministerial Media)
James Marape in a virtual conference (Prime Ministerial Media)

NEWS DESK
| PNG Bulletin Online

PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape has joined leaders of the Pacific to call for stronger solidarity, a renewed Covid-19 response and tougher action on climate change.

Marape joined 12 other leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum as it convened on Friday in a virtual retreat to mark the last 50 years since its establishment in 1971 in New Zealand.

Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Vanuatu, Niue, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Australia sat in a roundtable talk that underpinned Pacific brotherhood, although this time with the exception of the majority of Micronesian states.

Micronesian states had threatened to break away from the Forum, an issue that featured prominently at Friday’s meeting.

The issue of contention is Micronesia’s view that over the last 50 years, no Micronesian member has been appointed as Forum secretary-general.

All Pacific leaders including Marape reiterated the Forum’s stand on a “united Pacific” and strongly urged Micronesia to remain pending a review of the mechanisms that could allow for more inclusive appointments to the secretariat.

Covid-19 was the first agenda item, with many small countries reporting Covid-free populations and a scaled-up vaccination coverage.

Apart from Australia and New Zealand, PNG and Fiji reported the highest Covid infections.

The retreat ended with a declaration to preserve coastal areas experiencing the impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise.

PNG is continuing its efforts as the current chair the Coalition of Rainforest of Nations, and prime minister Marape said he was looking forward to high-level talks at the Conference of the Parties (COP26), the UN climate change conference later in the year.

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