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The Micronesian Leaders Summit discussed COVID, transport and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Leaders of five Micronesian countries have moved to strengthen their sub-regional co-ordination at the 20th Micronesian Presidents’ Summit (MPS).

Meeting under the theme “Sustainable Transportation and Trade through the Micronesian Region”, the five presidents issued the Naoero Communiqué covering trade and shipping, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, transnational crime and IUU fishing – and the Micronesian bloc’s troubled split with the Pacific Islands Forum.

Nauru President Lionel Rouwen Aingimea hosted the virtual meeting from 30 August to 2 September, alongside fellow presidents Taneti Maamau of Kiribati, David Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), David Kabua of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and Surangel Whipps Jr of Palau.

Underpinning the meeting was an extended discussion about the division in the Pacific Islands Forum, with MPS leaders reaffirming their intention to withdraw in 2022.

At a Forum Leaders Special Retreat on 8 February, former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna was elected in a close vote as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, defeating RMI Ambassador Gerald Zackios. The five Micronesian leaders immediately began the process to initiate withdrawal from the regional organisation.

Speaking after this month’s summit, President Aingimea reaffirmed the MPS policy first outlined in the 2020 Mekreos Communiqué (an edict where the five nations first announced their intention to withdraw if their joint candidate for Secretary General was not elected).

“That issue was discussed at length over the three days of the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit,” President Aingimea said. “The position of Micronesia is still the Mekreos Communiqué. We have not changed from that position.”

Since February, there have been apologies from other Forum leaders and attempts to reconcile – a dialogue process acknowledged by President Aingimea.

“There are still ongoing discussions happening,” he noted. “Those discussions have yet to finish and as those discussions go along, I am sure that there will be other issues that will come about that could help  maybe – move things forward. Micronesia is always willing to engage, but again I reiterate that our position is the Mekreos Communiqué and we stand by what we have said.”

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