Otago Daily Times

Ardern urges Micronesia to reconsider

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WELLINGTON: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government will do what it can to encourage Micronesia­n countries to stay in the Pacific Islands Forum.

Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau and the

Federated States of Micronesia have decided to withdraw from the forum, upset about the appointmen­t of former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna as the forum’s secretaryg­eneral.

They say South Pacific countries dishonoure­d a ‘‘gentleman’s agreement’’ under which it was Micronesia’s turn.

Ardern yesterday said the Micronesia­n leaders’ decision was regrettabl­e and saddening.

‘‘We were very saddened by that decision, of course . . . I know that we are going to do what we can to try and encourage the leaders to stay.

‘‘The strength of the Pacific Islands Forum is the wide representa­tion and, of course, we want to see that remain,’’ she said.

Ardern also rejected media reports that New Zealand was backing a particular candidate for the secretaryg­eneral position.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne appealed to Micronesia­n countries to remain engaged with the forum.

She said she appreciate­d the disappoint­ment government­s across Micronesia had with the secretaryg­eneral outcome, but hoped that they would decide to remain engaged with the forum.

Vanuatuan leader of the opposition Ralph Regenvanu, said, ‘‘I think it’s up to the countries that support Pacific regionalis­m to do something to

. . . address the issue that’s arisen to cause this division.’’ — RNZ

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