SPUTNIK – Asia & Pacific 09:24 GMT 05.02.2021
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Palau is about to walk out of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) over its disagreements with Micronesian nations over the regional body’s leadership, Palauan President Surangel Whipps told the Radio New Zealand broadcaster on Friday.
“Today, we are sending a diplomatic note to Fiji to let them know that we are closing our embassy there because of the results of the forum and after our meeting, as president of the north Pacific, I believe we will make a joint statement and we will also be moving forward and removing ourselves from the forum,” Whipps said.
According to Whipps, the decision to leave the forum came after other Pacific leaders ignored Micronesia’s request for their candidate to become the PIF secretary general.
On Thursday, former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna was appointed for the regional body’s top role, which according to Palau is unacceptable as the unwritten agreement that the role be rotated by sub-region was violated. Notably, the Cook Islands in the South Pacific belong to Polynesia.
According to Whipps, the South Pacific island nations dominate the forum’s decisions by sheer numbers.
“For example, we have other islands in the north Pacific, we have Guam, we have Saipan, we have Hawaii, we have American Samoa. … Why aren’t they members of the Pacific Islands Forum? If we are allowing Cook Islands, Niue – which are part of New Zealand – to be part of the forum, to vote, then we should be allowing those other countries,” the president noted.
The Pacific Islands Forum was founded in 1971 to boost trade and peacekeeping cooperation between countries of the Pacific Ocean. It is comprised of 18 member states including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, Samoa and the Marshall Islands, among others.