Joint statement Tarawa, Kiribati

  • Transcript E&OE
Subjects: Signing of MOU between Australian and Kiribati Governments.

Taneti Maamau, President of Kiribati: Our dear friends from the media, I’ll begin by sending regards to you, on behalf of the Government of Kiribati and the people of Kiribati, as well as the Australian Government and the people of Australia through the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Senator, Honourable Penny Wong, with warm greetings, kam na bane ni Mauri [Greetings to you all].

Today I had the honour of having a very productive and fruitful discussions with the Honourable Minister and Senator from the Government of Australia, Penny Wong and the bilateral cooperation today. We just finished the Bali - for your information -  we just had a meeting in Adelaide a week or two ago, at the 8th Bali Process meeting. Not long after that, I'm grateful and honoured to receive the Honourable Minister, Honourable Penny Wong on our shores to engage more on a sort of targeted framework, in the area of cooperation, we have now signed called the Tobwaan Te Reitaki [Nurturing Cooperation] Memorandum of Understanding. And the Memorandum of Understanding just signed is based on, and builds on, is based on the already existing and long‑standing partnership that we have had with the Government of Australia, and covering a broad range of sectors including health, education, labour mobility, infrastructure, connectivity, also engaging maritime security as well as the Economic Reform Taskforce as well as the budget supports, to name a few.

We are very grateful that that long‑standing partnership has been growing strongly each day, and ensure that we engage every year with one of our traditional partners, the Government and the people of Australia.

And so the MOU in a nutshell, has basically three areas of cooperation. One, I may call the economic infrastructure cooperation, and whatever comes under that area of cooperation includes the Kanton Wharf upgrade, and support economic developments, humanitarian, and also maritime security. The second is the coastal protection, and that's the climate security and adaptation initiatives. And the third is the Kiribati police service recruit barracks, their quarters and training facilities and armoury, including also the Betio Port upgrades, and the revitalisation of the fisheries jetty. Also included is the East Micronesian cable, as well as technical assistance in aviation.

The second component of the cooperation in the MOU, is the existing border, building on the existing border, and policing cooperation for future delivery, and included under that scope, that area of cooperation is a second patrol boat which the Government of Australia has willingly agreed to provide to the Government of Kiribati, and also assist in the extended maritime domain awareness and surveillance support. Secondly, under that area of cooperation is the expanded police training and support for the Kiribati police service, including the UN peacekeeping training and the cyber security training.

The third component of the Tobwaan Te Reitaki MOU is to build on and expand on the support for broader law enforcement and authorities for the Government of Kiribati to embrace, especially to come up with a new expanded agreement, broader agreement to contain those areas that are covered under the Tobwaan Te Reitaki Memorandum of Understanding.

We hope that the MOU that we've just signed will provide a significant leg‑up to future areas of cooperation.

I would like to thank the Australian Government through the Honourable Minister Penny Wong for the immense contributions and supports towards our development efforts, and I look forward to our two governments working closely in delivering tangible outcomes towards the prosperity of our peoples and our nations.

So with those few remarks, I would like to conclude by bestowing upon us all our traditional blessings of Te Mauri Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa [Health, Peace and Prosperity].

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Thank you very much, and may I start by thanking His Excellency President Maamau for hosting me, and also as he said, for giving, bestowing a great honour on me, which was to attend the Bali Forum Process in my home town of Adelaide, and I was very grateful to receive him. So it is, I think says something that within a very short period you were in my country, and my home town, and now I am here in Tarawa, and it is wonderful to be here.

And we will also both be at the Special Leaders meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in the next couple of days, and I again warmly welcome developments on that front.

As His Excellency said, we have a long‑standing relationship between our two countries, and if I can pick up where His Excellency left off, where he talked about the prosperity of our peoples and our nations, and I would say to you this, that the way we think about working with other members of our Pacific family, of listening to them, of working with them towards greater development and greater economic sustainability, is that we believe that ultimately our security and your security, our prosperity and your prosperity, our resilience and your resilience, are intertwined. And so when we work with you in support of those, the economic and human aspirations that you seek for your people, we see that as a project that we have a stake in for our peoples as well.

So I'm very grateful to have the opportunity for a very open, respectful dialogue today, and if I may highlight a few of the areas we agreed to work on; coastal protection, we know the critical vulnerability of Kiribati to climate change; continued maritime cooperation, as His Excellency has mentioned, including the upgrades to Betio Port and the Kanton Wharf, which reflect the importance of maritime domain to a country which has the third largest economic exclusion zone in the Pacific Island Forum area.

Other areas of economic infrastructure, such as the East Micronesian cable, as well as training in peacekeeping and cyber security, to build your country's capacity and to demonstrate again, to support again, your involvement in the international community. It's a source of, I think, enormous pride to Kiribati that you provide, you seek to provide that peacekeeping involvement.

These matters speak to the broad relationship that we enjoy with Kiribati, which we are seeking to expand further today, and I look forward tomorrow to having the opportunity to see on the ground some of the work that we're doing together.

His Excellency spoke about what we have called this Memorandum of Understanding, Tobwaan Te Reitaki. And we spoke about what that meant. It's about nurturing, fostering our cooperation, and that is a sentiment that we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to. So thank you, your Excellency for your hospitality and for your dialogue, and thank you for an agreement which I think says something about the path forward and about the relationship between our countries.

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