United States and China set to be excluded from Pacific Islands Forum meeting to avoid ‘distraction’

The Pacific’s top diplomatic body appears set to exclude the United States, China and several other major nations from a crucial leaders’ meeting in Fiji next month, which could help shield the gathering from intensification of the geostrategic competition that is shaking the region.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting is due to be held in Suva, the capital of Fiji, in mid-July.

Australia is a full member of the forum and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already announced his presence.

Over the past few decades, PIF has also hosted a separate in-person meeting with Dialogue Partners during Leaders Week.

The forum has 21 partners, including the United States, China, European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, India, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

But the ABC has been informed that this year the face-to-face meeting of dialogue partners will not be held during the forum leaders meeting in Suva.

It will likely be held separately later this year, although PIF may also offer a virtual meeting for dialogue partners that week.

Either way, officials and politicians from countries outside the region will effectively be barred from the face-to-face meeting in Suva, where Pacific island leaders must grapple with a series of complex and weighty strategic issues.

Pacific leaders delay a deal
Pacific island leaders are expected to approve a sensitive deal to prevent Micronesia from separating from the Forum.(Provided: Government of the Federated States of Micronesia)

A Pacific island source said the officials – along with the current PIF chair, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama – were keen to ensure that Pacific leaders had “space” to work through the issues and decide. of their top priorities without having to simultaneously navigate meetings with powerful outside actors jostling for influence.

A second Pacific source confirmed that Dialogue Partners would not be invited to Suva, but said the decision was not intended to reduce geopolitical tensions surrounding the meeting.

Instead, they said Mr. Bainimarama wanted to make it easier for Pacific island leaders to focus on key internal issues, including efforts to bridge a painful divide over the leadership of the United Nations Forum secretariat. Pacific Islands.

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