Solomon Islands Exempt Australia - New Zealand from Foreign Naval Ban
A week after Solomon Islands announced a suspension of all port calls for foreign naval vessels, the nation’s prime minister clarified that Australia and New Zealand are exempt from the temporary ban. The ban on foreign naval vessels came to the forefront last month after a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and a British naval vessel were denied port entry in Honiara. The vessels were part of a joint fishery patrol mission in the South Pacific region.
Speaking to parliament on Monday, Solomon Island Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said military vessels deployed under the auspices of the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIIAF), a treaty under which Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji work with the Solomon Islands Police, are exempted during the period of the moratorium. In addition, foreign military vessels responding to a request for assistance from the Solomon Islands government would also be exempt.
“The Solomon’s cabinet decided to impose a moratorium on military vessels as it reviewed the benefits and risks to Solomon Islands of any visits by any military vessels. The moratorium is therefore not targeting the United States,” said Sogavare.
The US, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain became involved starting last month in the illegal fishing patrols near Solomon Islands’ territorial waters. During his remarks, the prime minister said the expansion of the fishing patrols means that the prime minister’s office needed to know more about the vessels arriving. “We don’t know who is coming,” Sogavare added.
The prime minister instructed the Forum Fisheries Agency, based in Honiara and representing Pacific Island nations on matters related to fisheries, to notify his office about the naval vessels taking part in surveillance patrols to gain exemption.
Recently, the relations between Honiara and Washington have been tense since the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with China earlier this year. Some international relations analysts have been suspecting that the escalating unpredictability of the Solomon Islands could be emanating from its newfound bilateral engagement with China.