Thursday, 25 October 2007 9:50 AM

New Zealand Indicates Willingness to Assist Solomons

New Zealand has indicated it would be prepared to consider providing assistance to Solomon Islands in the review of the Facilitation of International Assistance Act.

This includes possible legal assistance if this was useful to ensure that this process was adequately addressed.

The New Zealand High Commission's Office in Honiara made the comment in response to media queries following a press conference held by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Patteson Oti, in which he revealed having had a constructive dialogue with the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, on the RAMSI review, in which she promised her country's assistance should it be needed.

"New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark took the opportunity to discuss RAMSI issues with Mr. Oti following the Forum, the main objective of the discussion being to commend the recommendations of the Forum RAMSI Task Force for the support of the Solomon Islands Government," the statement said.

It states that Solomon Islands Government's decision not to be represented in the discussions at the Leaders Retreat at the recent 38th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Tonga has disappointed Forum Leaders.

"The Prime Minister feels that the Forum Task Force recommendations responded to the concerns that Prime Minister Sogavare had raised about RAMSI at the 2006 Forum, and that implementation of the recommendations would significantly improve the operation of RAMSI in the Solomon Islands," the statement said.

It adds that Forum Leaders had given strong support to the Forum Task Force RAMSI Review recommendations at their Tonga meeting, and were disappointed that the Solomon Islands had chosen not to be represented in the discussions at the Leaders Retreat.

"It was for that reason that the Prime Minister took the opportunity to talk to Foreign Minister Oti ... to highlight to him the considerable value that New Zealand, along with other Forum members, saw in the Forum Task Force recommendations, and to commend those recommendations for the support of his Government," the statement said.

It stated that in the course of the discussion with the Foreign Minister, Mr. Oti noted that the Solomon Islands was proceeding with their Review of the Facilitation of International Assistance Act.

"The Prime Minister sought some clarification of the problems that the Solomon Islands saw with this legislation given its crucial importance to RAMSI contributing countries, noting in the Leaders' Communiqué, the Solomon Islands Government had earlier given assurances that no changes to this legislation would be made without consultation with contributing countries."

For its part, New Zealand is interested in further clarification of the difficulties that the Solomon Islands Government has with the Forum Task Force recommendations, and for that reason is willing to consider any assistance they may request to address any specific concerns, the statement said.

It was verified that the New Zealand Prime Minister inquired as to how the Solomon Islands Government was planning to proceed with the review of the FIA Act that they had recently announced and indicated that New Zealand would be prepared to consider providing assistance.

"The key message for the Solomon Islands is that in light of both the significant investment that all Forum countries have made to the RAMSI operation, and the significant contribution that it has made to the Solomon Islands since its inception, it is important to get to the bottom of the concerns that the Solomon Islands maintain here," the statement said.

It said that the Forum Ministerial Standing Committee on RAMSI has been tasked by Forum leaders to pursue further consultations to this end, and New Zealand stands ready to support this process in whatever way it can.

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