Fiji’s Minister for Trade Faiyaz Koya, officiating as chair of the Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Suva today, and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General Henry Puna implored ministers to “keep the Pacific family united” as they deliberate on complex and critical issues to the region including the Suva Agreement, the heightened geopolitical competition in the region of late and worsening climate change projections and impacts.
Koya and Puna encourage ministers to engage freely and openly on the issues that “have the potential to shape our region in deeply fundamental and potentially irreversible ways”, and while at it keep the collective interests and the solidarity of the region paramount.
“We need to ensure that we build on our own solidarity as a Pacific family and to set ourselves on the right course for our people and for the blue Pacific continent,” Koya said. “Let us seize the opportunity and approach this meeting with open minds and take on the true Pacific way by engaging at this meeting with a willingness to share ideas, participate in constructive dialogue and provide flexibility where needed.”
Puna said the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with natural disasters that stretched PICs’ resources to the limit underscore the need to “more than ever rely on each other, pulling our resources united in our commitment to continue to serve and protect our people.”
The need for the region to work together he says is the most important in the face of intensifying geostrategic competition in the region, calling on PICs to tread with caution.
“If we are to maximize the opportunities that this increasing interest and attention present for us, we must protect the sanctity of our solidarity and liberties as the blue Pacific continent and as one Pacific Forum.
“At this point in our history, …our key strength and our biggest resource as a region is our ocean. Our blue Pacific Ocean should be the central consideration as we look to the future, how we secure it, protect it and leverage and benefit from it.”
Also on the agenda for foreign ministers to deliberate on is Climate Change – sea level rise, the Rarotonga Treaty, and the maritime zones. Also on the agenda is the report of the Forum Officials Committee which met in Suva a few days ago to finalise the schedule for the leaders’ meeting as well as the implementation of the Suva Agreement.
Drawn up last month, the Suva Agreement was offered to leaders of the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit (MPS) to resolve an impasse over the appointment procedures for the position of Forum SG.
The meeting at the secretariat in Fiji’s capital city, the first in-person-hybrid ‘talanoa’ of foreign ministers after nearly three years, sets the scene ahead of the Pacific Leaders meeting next week as they will inform the leaders’ decisions.
The Forum Leaders meeting is scheduled to start on Tuesday 12 July, concluding on Thursday 14 July in Suva.