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PNG lifts Travel Ban on Australians Visiting Bougainville

Staff Reporter 6/01/2015 | | |
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Rimbink Pato LLB CMG MP, has announced the removal of the travel ban on Australian citizens visiting the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

Following a meeting the Minister held recently in Japan with Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O'Neill CMG MP, and Australian Foreign Minister, Hon. Julie Bishop MP, Minister Pato said both countries had reached common ground on issues relating to the ban.

"Prime Minister O'Neill reaffirmed Papua New Guinea's position that the Government does not approve of the establishment of an Australian diplomatic mission on Bougainville," Foreign Minister Pato said.

"While the manner in which the proposal was announced was unfortunate, we have discussed the issue with our Australian colleagues.

"We recognise that there was a serious lapse in communication and we can now move on from this issue.

"While Papua New Guinea appreciates the support of Australia and other development partners in Bougainville, caution is required.

"There are historical sensitivities in relation to Australia's involvement in Bougainville that must be taken into consideration.

"The success of the peace process on Bougainville remains a high priority for the Government, as I know it is for Australia.

"Travel restrictions on Australians travelling to Bougainville have been lifted as of today."

The Minister said he hoped there would be greater coordination in the delivery of development support in Bougainville to ensure greater clarity and better synchronisation.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop in a letter to Prime Minister O'Neill reiterated that Australia regrets their "miscommunication regarding the proposal for an expanded presence in Bougainville, and for the way the announcement has been reported and portrayed. Australia fully respects Papua New Guinea's sovereignty, including over the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and recognises the sensitivity with which this important issue must be treated."

Minister Bishop's statement follows a letter from Minister Pato to his Australian counterpart last week on the matter.

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