Kiribati Withdraws from Pacific Islands Forum

Kiribati announced that it would be withdrawing from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on the eve of its first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter dated July 9 to the PIF secretary-general, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau listed key reasons for the “immediate” withdrawal from the key diplomatic body in the Pacific region.

1News New Zealand first reported the withdrawal.

Maamau said that the PIF had not adequately addressed the concerns of Micronesian countries, including Kiribati, that previously announced to leave the PIF last year.

The concerns included the appointment of a Polynesian to the role of secretary-general, despite it being promised to Micronesia and reform packages made under the Suva agreement.

Maamau also said that his request for the forum to be deferred because it coincided with Kiribati National Day was never considered or acknowledged.

“This decision was not taken lightly,” Maamau wrote, adding that it “was never meant to offend or be against any of our Pacific Island brothers and sisters.”

The forum is due to begin on July 11 in Suva.

The withdrawal comes at a crucial time for the Pacific region amid increased geostrategic interest from China, the United States, and Australia.

“It’s very clear that geostrategic competition is the backdrop to this PIF in ways it never has been before. It’s the first time since the cold war that the Pacific is really in the crosshairs of major powers,” Dr. Wesley Morgan, a senior researcher at the Climate Council, who is in Suva for the forum, said, as quoted by The Guardian.

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