The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Media Release

FA75 - 25 June 2003

Talks On Solomon Islands

Foreign Ministers from the Pacific Islands Forum will meet in Sydney on 30 June to discuss possible responses to the situation in Solomon Islands. 

The meeting will be co-hosted by myself, New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff and the Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Laurie Chan.

Held under the auspices of the Forum, the meeting follows talks between the Australian and Solomon Islands Prime Ministers in Canberra on 5 June.

The Biketawa Declaration, issued by Forum Leaders in Kiribati in 2000, provides for ad hoc meetings of Foreign Ministers in times of crisis or in response to a request for assistance by Forum members.

The Solomon Islands situation is one of the region’s most troublesome.  Solomon Islands is on the verge of becoming a failed state.  The Government has been paralysed by severe law and order problems which are preventing economic recovery and eroding the institutions of civil society.

Australia’s aid to Solomon Islands has been generous. Our contributions have helped maintain basic government functions including police and health services.  We also helped negotiate the 2000 Townsville Peace Agreement which prompted the warring parties to pull back from full-scale civil war.  Australia was the key player behind the International Peace Monitoring Team which contributed to disarmament and facilitated the 2001 elections.

However, the situation is rapidly reaching crisis point. Two weeks ago, senior Australian and New Zealand government officials travelled to Honiara to investigate the possibility of strengthened assistance to Solomon Islands to restore law and order and facilitate social and economic recovery.

Such assistance would come only at the explicit invitation of the Solomon Islands Government. 

I look forward to discussing possible options with my counterparts from around the region.

Media enquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 - Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555