The new United States Ambassador to Solomon Islands, Her Excellency Ambassador Catherine Ebert-Gray paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister, Hon Manasseh Sogavare today as she began her 6-day visit to Solomon Islands.
Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Ambassador Ebert-Gray to Solomon Islands in her capacity as US Ambassador, as they discussed various issues of mutual interests in fisheries, climate change, defense cooperation, WW2 ordnance disposal as well as the maintenance and acquisition of WW2 memorial sites in Solomon Islands.
Ambassador Ebert-Gray noted the many issues of mutual interest to Solomon Islands and the United States, which she hoped to pursue during her tenure, as she announced new climate change funding initiatives by the US.
She also noted the importance of Tuna for both Pacific countries and the US tuna industry, and the need that the existing arrangement may be further improved in the future, although noting the work of the Ministerial Working Group in on-going discussion of the pursue the possible future tuna treaty.
Ambassador Ebert-Gray further noted the impacts of climate change in Solomon Islands, especially to the extent that a provincial township, Taro, may have to be relocated in the future due to the encroaching seas.
In response, Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated his government’s stance on the success of the Paris COP21
outcomes and maintained the government’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission by embarking on two major hydropower projects of Tina River in Guadalcanal Province and Fiu River in Malaita Province.
He told Ambassador Ebert-Gray that for Solomon Island, as much as many other small Pacific Island, climate change ‘is real’ and ‘a matter of life and death’ with the need for better access to global climate change fund to finance much-needed sustainable national projects.
With the US Tuna Treaty with Pacific Islands, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that the Working Group involving Pacific member countries would find a suitable model of fee payment that will enable the US fishing fleets to continue to fish in the Pacific countries’ EEZ and high seas.
On the regional front, Prime Minister Sogavare impressed on Ambassador Ebert-Gray that human rights abuses in the West Papua province of Indonesia continues to be an issue of concern in the Melanesian region, especially to him in his capacity as Chair of the MSG.
He told Ambassador Ebert-Gray that Solomon Islands will continue to support the Unites States plans to maintain global peace and security while emphasizing of the importance of maintaining the appropriate forum of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva.
Ambassador Ebert-Gray’s six-day visit to Solomon Islands will include a courtesy call to the Speaker of National Parliament, the Leader of Opposition, visits to Head of Diplomatic mission and RAMSI Special Coordinator before departing on Monday next week.
Ambassador Ebert-Gray is also accredited to Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Vanuatu. She replaces Ambassador Walter North and is based in Port Moresby.