The president of Palau said the pause on Micronesia’s pending withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum is the last chance for leaders in the south to set things right.
Last year after a falling out over the candidacy for Forum secretary-general, five northern Pacific states initiated formal withdrawal processes which begin taking effect in June.
But after a meeting, last Friday Micronesian leaders announced they were pausing their withdrawal because they had been given an undertaking that by June their concerns would be addressed.
The main concern for the Micronesian leaders is that their man was overlooked in favour of Henry Puna, contravening a gentlemen’s agreement that the post would go to a Micronesian.
The president of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr said he is open to a resolution but will not stand on ceremony if one is not forthcoming.
“Our community of course want to see us, if we can resolve an issue resolve it. However, they also want us to be firm and be clear and not be taken for granted. So once again we are going to trust the gentlemen’s agreement and build on that,” he said.
The expectation based on reports from the Federated States of Micronesia is that Puna is set to leave the secretary-general post by mid-year but may retain the post of Pacific Ocean Commissioner, possibly based in Auckland.
But the Forum secretariat says it cannot comment.
Officials say they are “unable to make any comments on the high-level political dialogue, which is ongoing.”
The region’s first Pacific Ocean Commissioner was appointed by Forum Leaders in 2011.
A spokesperson for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says – “New Zealand supports ongoing regional efforts to maintain the unity of the Pacific Islands Forum. We welcome the announcement by FSM to pause its plans to withdraw from the Forum while discussions continue.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS