9 Oct 2007

NZ political scientist says Pacific leaders should use Forum meeting to settle differences

10:39 am on 9 October 2007

A New Zealand political scientist says the region's leaders need to use the opportunity presented by next week's summit in Tonga to begin patching up differences.

Australia has been at loggerheads with both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands for more than a year while both New Zealand and Australia have been very critical of the military regime in Fiji.

Canterbury University professor Dr John Henderson says while the language of the leaders has been extreme, the Forum can be used to go beyond the rhetoric.

Dr Henderson says if the leaders start talking again it would the most important achievement of the summit.

"I think that is more important than any particular issues that tend to come up at each and every Forum. I don't see an issue which is different with this Forum as with previous ones. but I do see a need to patch up relationships between key players, such as [Australian Prime Minister John] Howard if he comes and [PNG leader Sir Michael] Somare, who are at loggerheads at the moment or [ New Zealand Prime Minister Helen] Clark and [Fiji's Commodore] Bainimarama."