25 Aug 2003

Vanuatu says talks with Acehnese only informal

4:31 pm on 25 August 2003

The Vanuatu government says its talks with representatives from the Indonesian province of Aceh have only been informal, with the foreign minister, Serge Vohor, saying there has been no request by the Acehnese to set up an office in Port Vila.

Indonesian officials were angered by claims by representatives from the separatist Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, that they planned to open an office in Vanuatu.

A government spokesman in Port Vila, Daniel Bangtor, says there have been informal discussions and any decision would have to be based on the type of support that the Acehnese may request.

Mr Bangtor says like the Papuans who were allowed to set up an information office, the Acehnese would need a permit.

"Well obviously they would have to, and the Vanuatu government would have to give official approval to that request, but I think for any country that makes such a request the Vanuatu government would have to consider that request in the light of the conditions set under the Vienna convention."