Bougainville : NZ to Host Leaders' Talks

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

"New Zealand has been asked to host a meeting of Leaders from Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in mid January," said
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Don McKinnon today on his return from APEC.

Mr McKinnon said the request came at the Cairns meeting of Bougainvillean and PNG Government officials, which ended yesterday.

"New Zealand has continuously stated a willingness to play a part in assisting the peace process," said Mr McKinnon.

"The Cairns talks have been a success, and now we look forward to progressing another step further in the peace process when leaders from Bougainville and PNG meet in New Zealand early next year."

Mr McKinnon acknowledged Australia's contribution to the Burnham process in hosting the Cairns meeting.

Mr McKinnon said New Zealand and Australian members of the Truce Monitoring Group were now settling in on the island and were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic, warm and emotional welcome, they were given on their arrival.

"Bougainvilleans turned out in their thousands. People lined the road and cheered and threw flowers as the Truce Monitors drove slowly to Arawa, stopping regularly to receive many speeches of welcome," he said.

This reception contrasts sharply with a media statement released yesterday in the name of Francis Ona. Mr McKinnon doubted the authenticity of this document.

"Frances Ona is a very intelligent man," said Mr McKinnon. "He has strong views on this issue and I know he will not challenge the Truce Monitoring Group. He knows that the Truce Monitoring Group, along with the peace process, is supported by a very large majority of the Bougainville population."

"My message to Francis Ona is that we want him in on the peace process."