Conflicts & War

Australia seeks to extend security forces deployment in Solomon Islands

Sydney, Australia, June 29 (EFE).- Australia is willing to deploy its security forces on Solomon Islands beyond the 2023 deadline agreed by both countries, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said Thursday amid China’s growing influence in the strategic Pacific region.

“We made it clear that if it was the Solomons’ wish for SIAF (the Solomon Islands Assistance Force) to continue then Australia stood ready for that to occur and that we’d be happy to support a continuation of SIAF’s presence supporting the Solomon Islands police force,” Marles said from Honiara, public broadcaster ABC reported.

The Australian-led SIAF was deployed in Solomon Islands after anti-government riots broke out in November 2021 under a security pact signed by Honiara and Canberra in 2017, which allows Australian police and defense personnel to deploy rapidly to the island nation if requested.

Marles has also announced a grant of about $16.5 million for the 2024 elections in Solomon Islands during his ongoing two-day visit to Honiara.

In a statement issued by his office on Wednesday night, Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare “conveyed the country’s appreciation to Australia’s on- going support in the area of security.”

“Assessments are still on-going to determine the security needs during the Games and should there be areas to address, Australia will be notified through appropriate channels,” said the statement issued after Sogavare’s meeting with Marles.

Sogavare also “expressed the need to review the current security treaty between the two countries to take into account the changing security challenges faced by both countries,” the statement added.

In his remarks on Thursday, Marles said that “the bilateral security treaty we have between our two countries is now a number of years old and it really does need to be renewed to take into account the contemporary security environment and contemporary assistance provided by Australia.”

Marles’ trip to Honiara is part of Australia’s strategy to strengthen its influence in the Pacific region, and in particular in the Solomon Islands, which signed a security pact with China in April 2022, which includes the deployment of armed police and military personnel at Honiara’s request.

Since the signing of the pact, which has raised suspicions that Beijing will establish a military base in the Solomon Islands, the Chinese police have provided training sessions to for the island nation’s law enforcement agencies, along with riot gear.

The islands were the scene of ethnic disputes between 1998 and 2003 pitting rival armed groups that terrorized the nation, causing more than 200 deaths and thousands of displaced people.

These clashes forced the deployment between 2003 and 2013 of the Regional Assistance Mission for the Solomon Islands, led by Australia. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button