14 Mar 2003

Forum to seek stronger ties with Indonesia

4:30 pm on 14 March 2003

The Pacific Islands Forum has expressed its desire to strengthen ties with Indonesia and ASEAN.

The Forum's secretary-general, Noel Levi of Papua New Guinea, who has held top level talks in Jakarta, says Indonesia wants to become more active in developing ties with Forum countries.

Mr Levi says the Forum has shown its maturity in the manner in which it collectively respects Indonesia's territorial integrity while trying to reach a better understanding of the welfare of people living in Papua province.

The separatist movement in Papua is being supported by Vanuatu which this year prompted Indonesia to threaten to cut ties with Port Vila.

The Forum had earlier welcomed Indonesia's autonomy offer to Papua but the Jakarta government now wants to split the province in what constitutional experts say is a policy defying its autonomy promise.

Mr Levi says the key thing is to generate confidence and to seek a mutual understanding to maintain peace and stability in the region.