13 Sep 2022

Dialogue begins to get Kiribati back into Pacific Islands Forum

12:41 pm on 13 September 2022
Flags of Pacific Islands nations, displayed at the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum summit.

Photo: AFP

The Pacific Islands Forum has started a diplomatic dialogue with Kiribati, in the hope of persuading it to return to the fold.

Kiribati withdrew from the Forum in July citing concerns over the regional body's leadership, as well as the Suva Agreement which was signed in June.

Guam's Pacific Islands Times quotes Fiji Prime Minister and Forum chair, Frank Bainimarama, as saying it is increasingly clear they are stronger when they are united as one region in confronting a dynamic, challenging and fluid strategic environment.

He said Pacific Island nations share a rich history, a vast ocean, and a culture which will continue to withstand the test of time.

Bainimarama said the Forum is inclined to explore options to retain its closer diplomatic engagement with Kiribati.

Late last month, Semi Koroilavesau, Fiji's fisheries minister, travelled to Kiribati to hand over the chairmanship of the Forum Fisheries Agency to Kiribati's Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development, Ribanataake Tiwau.

And according the the Pacific Islands Times he also acted as Bainimarama's special envoy, initiating re-engagement discussions with Kiribati's vice president, Teuea Toatu.

Bainimarama thanked Kiribati officials who "have initiated a small step in what is a sensitive yet crucial journey of re-engagement that will ensure a stronger, more inclusive, and more responsive Pacific Islands Forum."

He said "on behalf of Forum leaders, let me reaffirm that the people and government of Kiribati will always be integral members of the Blue Pacific Continent,"