Five Micronesian nations quit Pacific Island Forum

Sydney, Australia, Feb 9 (efe-epa).- Five nations of the northern Pacific subregion of Micronesia announced on Tuesday that they are quitting the 17-member Pacific Islands Forum, days after the controversial appointment of a new secretary general.

The presidents of Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Palau issued a joint statement saying they would begin the formal process to exit the regional forum, representing almost a third of the Pacific’s most influential regional body, created in 1971.

“There is no value in participating in an organization that does not respect established agreements, including the gentlemen’s agreement for subregional rotation” of the secretary general, a statement from Nauru president Lionel Aingimea said.

The split in the Pacific Islands Forum follows Thursday’s meeting at which regional leaders elected the former prime minister of the Cook Islands, in the Melanesia subregion, Henry Puna, in a split vote, with nine in favor and eight against.

The forum, which in recent years has led calls for urgent action against climate change, was governed by an unwritten rule to rotate the secretary general role around the three major sub-regions: Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.

This election was seen to be the turn of Micronesia, which nominated the Marshall Islands’ ambassador to the United States Gerald Zackios as a candidate, after the last two secretaries general were the Samoan Tuiloma Neroni (2008-2014) and the Papuan Meg Taylor (2014 -2021), from Polynesia and Melanesia, respectively.

A statement from the Federated States of Micronesia said the subregion’s presidents had “expressed great disappointment” with the appointment process for the role.

“President (David) Panuelo expressed frustration at how several Pacific Leaders suggested the Gentlemen’s Agreement doesn’t exist or that they’ve never heard of it,” it said.

The exit of the five nations, a process that can be extended for a year according to the formal procedure, leaves the forum with 12 members, all of them in the South Pacific. EFE-EPA


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