13 Sep 2006

Australia says diplomatic row with Solomons won't affect RAMSI

7:32 pm on 13 September 2006

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, says the diplomatic row with Solomon Islands won't stop Canberra's commitment to the Regional Assistance Mission, or RAMSI.

The government in Honiara has declared the Australian high commissioner persona non grata after alleging he meddled in the country's affairs.

Mr Downer has praised the high commissioner, Patrick Cole, as a good public servant for raising his concerns about a planned probe into the April riots which has led to tension between the prime minister and the judiciary.

Mr Downer says Solomon Islanders appreciate the work of RAMSI, much of which is being funded by Canberra.

"We will continue our work with the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands because that regional assistance mission, a Pacific-wide mission led by Australia, is providing enormous benefits to the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands."

The Solomon Islands Foreign Minister says he'd like to think relations with Australia remain cordial despite his government moving to expel the Australian High Commissioner.

But Patteson Oti says Australia's concerns about possible government meddling in the trial of two local MPs in connection with the riots are just speculation...

Just to be talking about it without resorting invoking the provisions of how these issues are handled in any country's judicial system. As far as we are concerned, our relations with Australia have always been cordial and we would like to believe we are dealing with this issue based on our mutual obligations and our rights under the Vienna Convention.

Meanwhile, Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has called the expulsion outrageous and has sent a senior envoy to Honiara to hold talks over the situation.