1 Dec 2014

PNG PM urges realistic debate about Pacific Forum

5:15 am on 1 December 2014

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has distanced his country from moves to exclude Australia and New Zealand from the Pacific Islands Forum.

The future make-up of the Forum and other regional organisations is to be discussed by Pacific leaders in Sydney next February.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has said his country will not rejoin the Forum unless the metropolitan countries are removed.

Mr O'Neill says it's important to stay realistic.

"Australia and New Zealand live in the Pacific. They are a very integral part of our communities in the Pacific communities. We have a very strong working relationship with both countries. We are going to see what Fiji is proposing but for Papua New Guinea such a restructuring is probably not right at this juncture."

Peter O'Neill says he understands the need to increase engagement with China, India, Japan and the US in various areas.

But he says in times of disasters and other needs, Australia and New Zealand are usually the first to help in the Pacific.