The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) says it will continue to ‘offer an olive branch to Kiribati’ as the five-member Micronesia nation grouping prepares to name a candidate to replace Henry Puna as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).
President David Panuelo addressing the nation last Friday hinted the process of identifying a candidate should begin soon.
“For our part, we can expect that the next Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum will serve a five- year term and will come from Micronesia.
“We can and should begin the work of interacting with our brothers and sisters in Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru and yes, Kiribati – who we continue to offer an olive branch to – to determine who that next Secretary General should be, announced President Panuelo.
Additionally, Micronesia will host the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, as well as a sub-regional office for the Pacific Islands Forum – part of the terms of the Suva Agreement signed in Fiji June last year to convince the five Micronesian countries not to leave PIF.
President Panuelo told the people of FSM, “Your Government is exploring how it might become the host of the sub-regional office for the Pacific Islands Forum.”
Under the terms of the Suva Agreement, Secretary General Puna would remain in office as secretary general, and after the end of his term in two years in 2024, a Micronesian leader would succeed him.
The five Micronesian countries, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Nauru threatened to leave the Pacific Islands Forum last year, after their joint candidate for the job of secretary-general of PIF was defeated in a controversial vote for Puna, from the Cook Islands, a Polynesian country.
The Micronesian bloc argued there was a “gentleman’s agreement” in place that meant the top job should be shared between Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian candidates. After Dame Meg Taylor, from Papua New Guinea, a Melanesian country, it was supposed to be Micronesia’s turn.
“The sovereign Micronesian countries have found and defended their voice, and we’re now part of a renewed and strengthened Blue Pacific, said President Panuelo.
He said the Pacific Islands Forum has emerged as a stronger and more resilient organisation through the Suva Agreement.
Reviewing the island nation’s foreign policy achievements in 2022, President Panuelo said, “the country has shown time and again that though our population is small, our voice is large.
“From recognising the Honourable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of Samoa after her swearing in ceremony, to severing our relations with the Russian Federation due to their brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and from condemning the former U.S President for his fascist attempted insurrection, to warning the Pacific Island Leaders of the dangers of China’s Common Development Vision, FSM has jealously guard the Pacific Way of Peace, Unity and Liberty.”
Under his administration, President Panuelo is keen to follow up and establish diplomatic missions in Canberra and Geneva, a chancery in Tokyo and a consulate each in Portland and Honolulu in the United States.