Bougainville hopes PNG Canberra spat resolved quickly

9:39 pm on 20 May 2015

The Bougainville President says the people in the autonomous region are ones who will suffer if the spat between Papua New Guinea and Australia is not quickly resolved.

John Momis says the ban placed on Australians entering Bougainville after Canberra announced plans for a diplomatic mission in Buka breaches the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

The plans, detailed in last week's Australian budget, came as a surprise to PNG's government, as the self-governing region of Bougainville works towards holding a referendum on independence.

PNG's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, said there was no consultation and nothing had been agreed, while the Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato expressed outrage at what he called "mischievous" plans by Canbbera.

The government reacted by banning Australians travelling to Bougainville on short-term entry visas.

The President of Bougainville, John Momis

The President of Bougainville, John Momis Photo: RNZI

Mr Momis has called for constructive engagement on the row, which has emerged in the middle of the voting period for Bougainville's elections.

"I'm just calling on both governments to resolve their differences quickly so that the difficult task of managing the process of the referendum as well as the outcome of the referendum will be handled by all parties in a spirit of collaboration as per the Bougainville Peace Agreement."

John Momis says Canberra's plans had not come as a surprise given Australia's involvement in the region, and it makes sense given Bougainville's increasing needs as the window for the vote on possible independence approaches.

Canberra hopes to talk with PNG over spat

The Australian government says it hopes to have discussions with Papua New Guinea about Canberra's plans to open a diplomatic mission in Bougainville.

A spokesperson for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the government hopes to discuss this issue with PNG in coming days.

The broader bilateral relationship is described as having never been in better shape, with a strong and prosperous PNG marked as Australia's priority.

The spokesperson says Australia has a significant and growing development program in Bougainville; almost 50 per cent higher than it was in 2012-13.

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