Despite Kiribati’s withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum- the Australian government still considers the island nation as a ‘valued family’ of the Forum.
The statement was made by Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles while visiting Fiji, when asked whether diplomatic efforts have been made to bring Kiribati back into the fold.
“Kiribati is a very important country from Australia’s point of view. I’ve been to Kiribati on many occasions, it’s a place which is actually very dear to my heart.
“I’m hoping to meet with Henry Puna the Secretary General of the PIF later today. I know that they are very active in their engagement with Kiribati to emphasise that Kiribati is a valued member of the Pacific family.
And I think that’s our job to to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make it clear to Kiribati that it is valued nation,” Marles told journalists in Suva.
The Forum was on the verge of crumbling last year when five Micronesian states– Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati and Nauru– served notice of their intention to leave the bloc when the Fiji faction elected Cooks Island Prime Minister Henry Puna over Marshall Islands Ambassador Gerald Zackios as the organisation’s secretary general.
The FSM, the Marshall Islands, Palau and Nauru have since reconsidered their withdrawal but Kiribati has completed its exit process.
Pacific Islands Forum Chair, and Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama last month reaffirmed the people and Government of Kiribati that they will always be integral members of the Blue Pacific Continent.
Bainimarama said they share a rich history; vast ocean, and a Pacific culture that has withstood and will continue to withstand the test of time.
He said Forum Leaders remain committed to a dialogue with the Government of Kiribati to explore options for closer diplomatic engagement between them and the PIF.