Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape met with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Leaders Summit Thursday.

Amongst issues discussed by the two leaders was the issue of West Papua and the application by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (UMLWP) to become full members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

A PNG Government statement said PM Marape distanced himself from commenting on the issue because of his own nation’s human rights challenges.

He informed President Widodo that Papua New Guinea abstained from supporting the UMLWP bid for full membership on the grounds that the West Papuan group ‘did not meet the requirements of a fully-fledged sovereign nation.”

“More so, Indonesia’s associate membership status also as a Melanesian country to the MSG suffices, which cancels out West Papua ULM’s bid, said PM Marape.

On alleged human rights issues in West Papua, Prime Minister Marape informed that owing to its own human rights challenges.

“PNG has no moral grounds to comment on human rights issues outside of its own jurisdictions, said Marape.

In response, President Widodo informed his PNG counterpart of his government’s commitment to build trustful and cooperative relations with Pacific Island Countries.

He informed Marape of his intention to invite Pacific Island Countries Leaders to attend the AIS Forum next month in Indonesia.

President Widodo said PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso will be invited to Papua Province to see for himself the developments taking place in that region of Indonesia.

The two leaders’ expressed satisfaction on the ratification and implementation of visa on arrival agreement for diplomatic and service passport holders and agreed that this be also extended to ordinary/private passport holders.

The leaders also noted and expressed appreciation on the success of the direct air services/flight between Denpasar in Bali and Jacksons in Port Moresby.

The opportunity for downstream processing gold from copper is immense which both leaders agreed to explore.

Finally, on human resources and training, Prime Minister Marape requested President Widodo to support more Papua New Guinean students to study in leading Indonesian educational institutions as this would build stronger people-to-people connections and create a deeper understanding between the younger generations of both countries who will carry forward into the future the peaceful and cooperative relations between PNG and Indonesia.