Previously, the Howard government had ruled out troop engagement for the Solomon Islands, but was faced with a unravelling situation in the heart of the Southwest Pacific, which Canberra sees as its sphere of influence. Three visits by Australian and New Zealand navy ships to begin ceasefire negotiations had not stopped the fighting that killed more than 70 people and driven thousands from their homes. Six previous peace agreements concluded between June 1999 and May 12, last through the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of solomon Islands had collapsed. A dozen commanders of the two militias signed the peace treaty that was negotiated over the past six days in the northern Australian town of Townsville. As a result, Australia is now involved in three peacekeeping operations in the immediate Asia-Pacific region. It has 1,700 soldiers in East Timor and about 150 military and police observers on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, which borders the Solomon Islands. Earlier, Dorney said: «This is not the first time in the last six days of peace talks that things have not gone as planned this morning. While the leaders of the two ethnic militias thought they had reached the peace agreement last night, some commanders of the Malaitia Eagle militia wanted change. Far from solving one of the problems faced by ordinary people in the Solomon Islands, the Townsville Agreement is primarily aimed at defending Australia`s economic and strategic interests. Companies controlled by Australia and others will now try to protect their activities in partnership with one or the other ethnic elite. After six days of talks in the northern Australian town of Townsville last week, rival ethnic militiamen from the Solomon Islands signed a temporary disarmament agreement in exchange for promises of separate economic development.
But there is no money to provide such facilities. The Solomon Islands, with a population of less than 500,000 people, spread over six main islands and about 340 small islands and small atolls, are now bankrupt. Despite the agreement, no commitment was made by the Howard government, which has already halted all aid until a ceasefire is signed. «After the signing of the 20-page peace agreement, Jeremy Rua, military commander-in-chief of Malaita Eagle Force, said that both sides had been involved in a bloody ethnic war, but now is the time to lay down their arms. The agreement promises to give both islands a wish list for development projects. Malaita has its own international airport, a fishing centre, a new port, a new road and tourist facilities. The National Provident Fund is praised for creating a De Malaita Provident Fund. These plans are in line with the MEF`s requests, under the direction of lawyer Andrew Nori, to release Malaita in order to compete with Guadalcanal for investment projects.
TOWNSVILLE, Australia (October 15, 2000 – Radio Australia/PINA Nius Online) —The rival militias of the Solomon Islands have signed an agreement to end their war that has killed 100 people, Radio Australia reported today. Before the meeting began, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer personally warned delegates that the Solomon Islands would disintegrate if talks failed. In a radio interview that followed, he said: «The Solomon Islands are on the brink….