INDEPENDENT NEWS

Goff Welcomes Papua New Guinea Peace Deal

Published: Thu 9 Aug 2001 12:39 AM
Foreign Minister Phil Goff has welcomed the Papua New Guinea Cabinet's in-principle endorsement to the proposed Bougainville peace settlement.
The comprehensive peace package, initialled between the representatives of the PNG national government and the Bougainville leadership on 22 June, is the result of lengthy negotiations which commenced in January this year.
It consists of three components: arrangements for a phased implementation of autonomy; an opportunity for a deferred referendum on Bougainville's political status, including the option of independence; and the phased implementation of a weapons disposal plan.
"The PNG Cabinet's endorsement is a welcome development in keeping the progressive political settlement moving ahead in the overall peace process. It opens the way for a signing ceremony in Bougainville, and for the UN to initiate discussions on the implementation of the weapons disposal plan," Mr Goff said.
Final approval of the package will be subject to debate in Parliament and legislation to change the Constitution in order to provide for a new relationship between an autonomous Bougainville government and the national government.
"I congratulate negotiators from both sides who have stuck to their task over long days and nights. Achieving consensus required concessions by both the Bougainvillean leadership and the national government of PNG and the result is a truly joint agreement.
"I wish also to compliment the UN for its efforts in facilitating the negotiations to ensure that the parties kept on track to reach this vital stage of the peace process.
"The prospect of lasting peace for Bougainville and a return to normal life is at last becoming a reality. The people of the island will no longer live in fear of the gun. Instead they will be able to concentrate their efforts on economic development and restoring Bougainville to the level of prosperity it enjoyed before the conflict began.
"New Zealand was pleased to be able to play a key facilitating role in the early days of the peace process through hosting talks between the parties at Burnham and Lincoln.
"New Zealand is committed to a lasting peace in Bougainville and we will continue our contribution to the regional Peace Monitoring Group on the island until the people of Bougainville are able to maintain the momentum for peace by themselves," said Mr Goff.
Ends

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