The Solomon Islands delegation to the 47th Pacific Islands Forum in the Federated States of Micronesia was warmly received by the Kiribati President during their one-day stop over in Tarawa, Kiribati, on Monday 5th September.

President Taneti Maamau and Lady Teiraeng Maamau hosted a welcome dinner for the delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Hon Manasseh Maelanga at the statehouse in Tarawa.

Also present at the function was the Kiribati Attorney- General and other senior Ministers and their spouses.

President Taneti took the occasion to express his appreciation to the Deputy Prime Minister Maelanga for his delegation’s one-day stop over in Kiribati, saying, “It is on occasions like these that we are often reminded of the family value and friendship.”

“Deputy Prime Minister, it is not every day that we receive very important visitors like you and so when it happens, we take it as a true blessing to us.”

“We are even more thankful to be able to meet you during your brief stay in Kiribati and we thank you for kindly according your precious time with us tonight.”

“As part of the Pacific family, Kiribati greatly values the friendship and ties with the Solomon Islands based on mutual understanding and respect for each other.”

“Kiribati’s history with the Solomon Islands is not new and this is evident in the substantial number of I-Kiribati population residing in Solomon Islands who have even become true wantoks of your beautiful country,” said the President.

He added that, “This speaks of a great power of human interaction which serves as a crucial component of any diplomacy and relationship between peoples and nations and I thank the government and the people of the Solomon Islands for welcoming and embracing our people as part of your identity and country.

“I sincerely hope that whatever role they may have, they are also able to contribute to your nation’s development and achievement.

“Our partnership in recent years has truly taken an interesting course particularly in the air service engagement which we very much look forward to concluding with Solomon Airlines.

“Let me also acknowledge and thank your Government for its kind support and partnership in facilitating the air service discussions that took place in recent months.”

President Taneti said he had discussed the matter with Solomon Islands’ Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Milner Tozaka during the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting last month, saying, it is imperative that the matter requires further attention to progress the process.

“The air service discussions and the potential opportunity that it will bring is very important for the people and the Government of Kiribati particularly in light of the long outstanding issue pertaining to the air service which comes at a very significant price and thus placed implications on our travelling public.”

“An additional airline service will definitely go a long way in addressing Kiribati’s long standing issue and we kindly seek your Government’s consideration on this matter,” the President said.

The President also used the opportunity to stress the need to finalise decisions on the air service agreement, stressing that the agreement has the potential to benefit citizens of both countries, particularly the I-Kiribati community in Solomon Islands who will be visiting their relatives in Kiribati.

“Critical to the success of this new air service is the ability of our people to travel to Solomon Islands and beyond without restrictions. On this note, let me once again seek your Government’s kind consideration on reciprocal visa benefits for Kiribati citizens wishing to travel to your beautiful shores to visit their families,” he said.

In response, Hon Maelanga said the Solomon Islands delegation are greatly honoured by the warm reception and the great hospitality accorded to his delegation since their arrival at Bon Riki International Airport where they were met by the Vice President.

He acknowledged the long history in the relationship between the two countries and assured the President that he will pursue the president’s request upon returning to Solomon Islands.

“I will take this issue forward with my Government. However, let me assure you Mr President that the Solomon Islands Cabinet has just made a decision that would greatly enhance this process, that we may develop with our relations to another level,” the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs said.

The Solomon Islands Government delegation arrived in the FSM Capaital, Pohnphei, on Tuesday 6th September.