By EDDIE OSIFELO
MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele has clarified why Solomon Islands signed the 11-points declaration during the Pacific Islands and United States of America summit in Washington last Thursday.
Solomon Islands earlier made her stand clear prior to the Summit not to sign the declaration.
However, speaking to reporters in Wellington, New Zealand yesterday, Manele said Solomon Islands agreed to sign after a requirement for “Pacific Island states to consult with each other before signing security deals with regional impacts” was removed.
“In the initial draft there were some references that we were not comfortable with, but then the officials under the discussions and negotiations … were able to find common ground, and then that took us on board, so we signed,” he said.
Asked what specifically they were uncomfortable with, he confirmed it related to indirect references to China.
“There were some references that put us in a position that we would have to choose sides, and we don’t want to be placed in a position that we have to choose sides.”
He said the Solomons’ agreement with China was domestically focused and did not include provision for a military base.
“My belief … and my hope is this – that the Pacific should be a region of peace, of co-operation and collaboration, and it should not be seen as a region of confrontation, of conflict and of war,” he said.
“And of course, we are guided by the existing regional security arrangements that we have in place – and these are the Biketawa declaration as well as the Boe declaration.
“We welcome the US re-engagement with the Pacific and we look forward to working with all our partners.”
Manele was on an official visit to New Zealand to meet his counterpart Nanaia Mahuta.
He was welcomed to the Parliament with a pōwhiri.
Solomon Islands has signed a security agreement with China in April this year, sparking backlash from USA and other western countries.
Details of that security pact has not been released publicly to date.