Pacific News Minute: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands Sign Maritime Border Treaty

Oct 27, 2016

Solomon Islands Police Force Officers
Credit Australian Civil-Military Centre

While maritime border claims from half a dozen countries continue to raise tensions in the South China Sea, one long running dispute in the Pacific was resolved earlier this month when Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands signed a treaty after 32 years of negotiations.  We have details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Talks between the two neighbors were complicated by the fact that their islands lie so close, that their respective Exclusive Economic Zones overlap.  The agreement covers not only the coordinates of the border, but resource rights, which includes fish and any oil, gas, or minerals beneath the sea bed.

Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare lead a delegation to Mota Lava, in Vanuatu's Torba Province for the signing ceremony.  Vanuatu's delegation included head of state Baldwin Lonsdale and Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.

While important border conflicts remain among Pacific nations, a statement from the Pacific Community pointed out that, with this treaty, 70% of such disputes have now been settled through negotiations.

The treaty is also being hailed as a triumph for Melanesian Solidarity, a principle that's been strained in the protracted disagreement over the future of West Papua. Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and the Kanaks of New Caledonia support full membership for West Papua in the Melanesian Spearhead group, while Fiji and Papua New Guinea support Indonesia, which has controlled the territory for more than 50 years. A twice-postponed summit to resolve the issue is now set for December.