26 Mar 2004

Solomons foreign ministry says border logging under control

3:26 pm on 26 March 2004

The Solomon Islands Foreign Ministry says logging-related tensions on both sides of the formerly troubled border with Papua New Guinea are under control.

Forestry officials say the Foreign Minister, Laurie Chan, wrote to their minister asking for suspension of a logging licence concerning a small island right on the border with Bougainville.

Officials say the license, understood to be held by Asian loggers, had split members of the same tribe living both on Shortland Island and nearby Bougainville.

Peter Forau, permanent secretary for the Foreign Ministry, says the issue has arisen at a sensitive time when both countries are trying to conclude and ratify border and other agreements.

"We are now in the process of concluding a number of agreements which are subsidiary agreements to the Framework Treaty that we are having with the government of Papua New Guinea. And those agreements are yet to be finalised, and therefore any disputes over resources in the border area, including the issue of forestry, should be discouraged until those agreements are finalised."

Peter Forau says tensions in the border area are under control, largely through the assistance of the Regional Assistance Mission.