Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Pacific region is “stronger together “as a unified Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) but President Surangel Whipos said that Micronesia is still resolute on its decision to leave the regional body.

Minister Payne was in Palau for an official visit to the country last week but would not say whether the withdrawal of the Micronesia countries from PIF was discussed with President Surangel Whipps Jr. 

“ I don’t usually discuss the details of my bilateral conversations. But of course, the matter of the unity of the Pacific Island Forum is one in which Australia has strong interests, we firmly believe that we are stronger together as a region and I have shared that view,” he told local reporters here.

But President Whipps said the issue of the PIF rift is always a “tough one.”

 “Ongoing discussion continues to be an ongoing discussion, but Micronesia has been very clear from where it stands,” Whipps said.

He said that Micronesian nations are open to working things out but it also expects respect from the other member- nations of PIF. 

He said Palau and the other Micronesia nations still stand behind its decision to withdraw from the forum over the choice of the regional body’s Secretary-General. Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) stressed that under a gentlemen’s agreement their Micronesian candidate should have been appointed as the next PIF secretary-general. ( B. Carreon) 

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