14 Feb 2007

Solomons seek prime ministerial meeting with Australia

2:55 pm on 14 February 2007

The Solomon Islands government wants a one-on-one meeting between prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, and his Australian counterpart, John Howard, to try to restore damaged relations following months of bitter diplomatic wrangling.

The Solomon's foreign minister, Patteson Oti, has told parliament that his office has made a formal request to Canberra through the Australian high commission in Honiara for a meeting to be arranged.

Mr Oti says his government was struggling to normalise relations with its most important neighbour but Canberra had to respect the sovereignty of Solomons Islands and not dictate terms to Honiara.

Mr Sogavare had earlier told parliament there were a number of issues his government needed to iron to move the relationship forward.

He has been embroiled in a series of diplomatic spats with Canberra since his election last May.

Last Friday, the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, accused Mr Sogavare of trying to destroy the Australian-led regional assistance mission in the Solomons and of using shameful tactics to try to taint it.