PNG hails Indonesia's admission into Melanesian group25 june 2015, 13:55
Indonesia has been admitted to a Melanesian intergovernment group, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill announced Thursday, welcoming the move as an important way to strengthen peace and security in the region, AFP reports.
Indonesia last month announced plans to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and has been welcomed as an associate member. It will be represented in the regional bloc by elected leaders of its ethnic Melanesian provinces Papua and West Papua.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) -- an umbrella body representing resistance groups in the province -- would also be given observer status, O'Neill added.
"Today is very a important day for peace and goodwill for our brothers and sisters living in Indonesia's Melanesian provinces," the PNG leader said in a statement after a meeting of MSG leaders in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara, where Indonesia's application was approved.
"I believe we have the respect of Indonesia for the honesty and genuine nature of our offer to offer cooperation on this sensitive issue.
"I further believe that groups such as ULMWP appreciate that our intentions are genuine."
The Melanesian Spearhead Group has Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the French overseas territory of New Caledonia's independence movement FLNKS as members.
It was formed in 1986 to support the decolonisation process and help regional liberation groups, but has since evolved into a regional body discussing trade and security issues.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo's move in May to remove reporting restrictions in Papua was seen as a sign that Jakarta was easing its tight grip on the mineral-rich province, where poorly armed fighters have for years fought a low-level insurgency against the central government.
Widodo has taken a keen interest in Papua, pledging to improve livelihoods in the heavily-militarised area which lags behind other parts of Indonesia in terms of development.
There are still regular bouts of violence in Papua, where insurgents are fighting on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population.
Jakarta took control of Papua, which forms half of the island of New Guinea, in 1963 from former colonial power the Netherlands.