INDEPENDENT NEWS

Reconnaissance visit to Solomons

Published: Tue 24 Oct 2000 08:42 AM
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement
20 October 2000
Reconnaissance visit to Solomons
New Zealand and Australian officials will travel next week to the Solomon Islands on a reconnaissance visit to assess the tasks to be undertaken by an International Peace Monitoring Team, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.
The New Zealand team will consist of five officials drawn from Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Defence Forces and NZ Police. They will meet with their Australian counterparts on Sunday and proceed to Honiara on Tuesday 24 October.
"It is vital that we maintain the momentum generated by the Townsville Peace Agreement," Mr Goff said.
"The agreement is a breakthrough. But it is only a start. Disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction are the great challenges that lie ahead for the Solomon Islands Government and the militant groups that signed the agreement.
"The first phase is disarmament and returning law and order to the capital, Honiara.
"The militant groups have signed up to an agreement that their weaponry must be returned in 30 days if they are to receive an amnesty. This needs to happen.
"Australia and New Zealand have been asked by the Solomon Islands Government for a contribution to an international peace monitoring team. We are willing to help.
"But whenever New Zealand deploys its representatives overseas into a situation like this we must be assured of their safety before we deploy them.
"The reconnaissance team will assess the security situation in Honiara and the areas where the IPMT will be deployed, and will advise the New Zealand and Australian governments on the appropriate size and composition of the unarmed team that will follow. A team of peace monitors from New Zealand, Australia, and other regional countries will be deployed over the next month.
"Australia's hosting of the Townsville talks has allowed the parties to the conflict to settle their differences. New Zealand will continue to play its part in helping Solomon Islanders to turn the words of the Peace Agreement into reality."
ENDS

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