28 May 2008

PNG blocks West Papua's MSG bid

1:38 pm on 28 May 2008

The push by Vanuatu to have West Papuans granted observer status at the Melanesian Spearhead Group is being blocked by Papua New Guinea.

Speaking at the MSG Foreign Ministers' meeting in Port Vila, PNG's Foreign Minister Sam Abal says his country will not allow Indonesia's Papua region to be an MSG matter.

Vanuatu's government has sponsored the issue as a discussion item on this year's MSG agenda and is understood to have won the support of Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia's FLNKS delegates for granting observer status to West Papuans.

But while the final decision will be made by MSG leaders later in the week, Mr Abal indicated that PNG won't have the West Papuans in the group.

"The issue of Papua for PNG, that is an issue we don't consider as an issue that should be brought into the MSG. It's something that is an internal issue that has a lot of ramifications, implications on it. So we would wish that it should not figure as part of the MSG discussion."

Meanwhile, the Ministers were saying little about the situation in Fiji which has been a key focus of the MSG review of political and security developments in their region.

Fiji's interim Prime Minister is in Port Vila for the MSG leaders summit and the other members of the group are expected to try and gauge his commitment to his promise to have Fiji elections held by next March.

In the meantime, Fiji's interim Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has briefed his MSG counterparts on the progress his country is making towards returning to democracy.

And the presentation on Fiji was on what we've done so far. We updated them on that report and what has taken place in Auckland and after Auckland I addressed the meeting on that.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau