Monday, 28 January 2008 1:30 PM

Australia Commits to Close Working Relationship with Solomons

Positive comments by Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, during Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua's visit to Australia this week confirms "Australia's continued commitment to a close working partnership with Solomon Islands Government, RAMSI and its regional partners to ensure a successful mission".

In congratulating Australia on its National Day, 26 January, RAMSI Acting Special Coordinator, Jonathan Austin, said that Australia's significant role in the regional partnership between 15 Pacific countries and Solomon Islands was of fundamental importance as Australia provides both personnel and funding to RAMSI.

The New Zealander acknowledged that "without Australia's support for RAMSI, [the mission] would not exist".

"Since the arrival of RAMSI in July 2003, many hundreds of Australian civilians such as lawyers, economists, development specialists, together with police and soldiers have participated in RAMSI in its task of working together with Solomon Islanders to restore law and order, and help rebuild the government and the public service so that it can deliver the services that people need," Mr. Austin said.

He thanked all the Pacific regional partners on behalf of RAMSI for their contribution to help Solomon Islands, spending time away from family and friends to help a neighbour.

Australia has contributed some $1.3 billion to RAMSI since 2003, which also involves a substantial deployment of around 170 police supported by over 130 Australian Defence Force personnel.

Around 120 Australian civilian advisers are also working in, and with, the Solomon Islands public service.

Mr. Austin said that Australians working with RAMSI has brought Australia closer to Solomon Islands and the region.

"The lives of the Australians who have worked in RAMSI have been enriched by the experience," he said.

"They have taken home with them very fond memories of their time in Solomon Islands, and many have been active in maintaining links with Solomon Islands since their return home."

The countries that make up the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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