Solomons peacekeeping force pulls back after a decade

Updated 25 July 2013

Solomons peacekeeping force pulls back after a decade

HONIARA: The largest military operation in the Pacific since World War II wound up in the Solomon Islands on Wednesday after a decade working to end deep-seated ethnic violence in the poverty-stricken nation.
The Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) deployed in a fanfare of publicity in 2003 after a desperate appeal from Honiara for international assistance.
Since then, it has adopted a low-key approach to bringing stability to the nation of about 600,000 people, which lies 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Australia.
At a ceremony in the capital on Wednesday RAMSI marked the 10th anniversary of the mission and the end of its military phase, with future operations concentrating on policing and governance.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said the real test for the nation was only now starting.
“I still remember vividly that there was a time in our lives when there was no hope,” he told the ceremony.
“Ten short years ago, many people lived in fear, desperation and destitution. “The real test is what we do when RAMSI leaves, whether we can hold together as a nation, or we crumble once again into individual microcosms that cannot work together.” Jenny Hayward-Jones, a Melanesia expert at Sydney-based foreign affairs think tank The Lowy Institute, told AFP the mission had been a success, “certainly in terms of restoring law and order.”
“However, there’s still not the level of trust from the Solomons population in their police that should have been achieved in 10 years,” she said.
When RAMSI was formed, the Solomons government was at the mercy of warlords, ethnic militants and a corrupt police force, with virtually no control outside the capital Honiara. More than 200 people had been killed and tens of thousands left homeless as gangs from rival islands terrorized local populations, with Australia’s then-Prime Minister John Howard warning the situation posed a risk to regional stability.
“A failed state in our region, on our doorstep, will jeopardize our own security. The best thing we can do is to take remedial action and take it now,” Howard said at the time as the situation looked set to spiral out of control.
The answer was RAMSI, a peacekeeping force led by Australia with support from New Zealand and 13 other nations from the Pacific Islands Forum.
Its troops landed near Honiara on July 24, 2003, at Red Beach, symbolically selecting the site where US Marines stormed ashore in 1942 to launch the bloody Guadalcanal campaign against the Japanese.
Unsure of the reception the militias planned, they had shoot-to-kill clearance if engaged in a firefight.
However, resistance never materialized and within a few months most warlords had been arrested and their followers disarmed.
There have been isolated outbreaks of unrest since, including riots after elections in 2006, but New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said the situation had stabilized.
Hayward-Jones said RAMSI had acted as a “quasi government” in the Solomons since then and was keen to have the administration in Honiara take responsibility for the country again.
“This 10th anniversary ceremony is sending a message that the Solomons is ready to stand on its own two feet again,” she said.


Macron slams Turkey’s ‘bellicose’ talk on Karabakh conflict

Updated 30 September 2020

Macron slams Turkey’s ‘bellicose’ talk on Karabakh conflict

  • Macron condemned Turkey’s statements backing Azerbaijan in its bid to take back the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh
  • Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh

RIGA: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday condemned what he called Turkey’s “reckless and dangerous” statements backing Azerbaijan it its bid to take back the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.
Ankara said on Tuesday it was “fully ready” to help Azerbaijan recover Nagorny Karabakh, as armed conflict escalated with neighboring Armenia over the region.
“I have noted Turkey’s political statements which I think are reckless and dangerous,” Macron told reporters in Latvia’s capital Riga during a visit to the Baltic EU state.
“France remains extremely concerned about the bellicose comments that Turkey made in the last hours, which essentially remove any inhibitions from Azerbaijan in what would be a reconquest of northern Karabakh. That we will not accept,” he added.
He also appeared to voice support for Yerevan: “I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role.”
But Macron also said it was too soon to speak of a regional conflict.
He said he would discuss the tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening and US President Donald Trump on Thursday before reporting on the situation to the European Council of EU leaders.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh and have blamed each other for sparking fierce clashes that erupted on Sunday and have since caused nearly 100 confirmed deaths.
The two sides have so far defied calls for a cease-fire.
Ankara has backed Azerbaijan in the conflict and on Tuesday the Armenian defense ministry said a Turkish F-16 flying in support of Baku’s forces had downed an Armenian SU-25 warplane. Ankara fiercely denied the claim.
Direct Turkish military action against Armenia would mark a major escalation after three days of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Karabakh.
And the UN Security Council called on both sides for an immediate end to the fighting.
Viewing Azerbaijan as its close ally and Armenia as its historic foe, Russia also called on Turkey to stop proclaiming support for Azerbaijan and to work toward a diplomatic solution to the escalation, the deadliest since 2016.
The European Union warned Monday regional powers not to interfere in fighting in Nagorny Karabakh, and condemned a “serious escalation” that threatens regional stability.