Anthony Albanese and Solomon Islands PM Sogavare hold first conversation
Anthony Albanese has spoken to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare for the first time since the federal election.
A spokesman for the Australian Prime Minister confirmed Mr Albanese and Mr Sogavare “enjoyed a good conversation” on Sunday evening.
“Mr Albanese is looking forward to meeting Mr Sogavare in person in Suva at the Pacific Islands Forum,” the spokesman said.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to issue a readout of their conversation, which was held on the phone before Mr Albanese flew to Madrid for a NATO leaders’ summit.
Their phone call comes after the signing of the controversial security pact between the Pacific island nation and China, which sparked alarm among Western allies in the final weeks of the Morrison government’s tenure.
Officials in Australia, New Zealand the US were concerned the agreement could provide a pathway to a permanent Chinese military presence in the Pacific.
Following the Australian federal election, Mr Sogavare issued a statement to congratulate Mr Albanese on his win and to thank Australia for its support.
The two leaders will meet in person for the first time next month at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Fijian capital.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong earlier this month embarked on a diplomatic blitz in the Pacific which included a meeting with Mr Sogavare in a bid to repair ties between Honiara and Canberra.
“We are committed to deepening our co-operation with Solomon Islands, as we work together to face shared challenges and achieve our shared goals, including on climate change,” Senator Wong said at the time.
“I look forward to discussing the ways we can continue to make progress on pandemic recovery, economic development and labour mobility priorities, and addressing our shared security interests.”
Senator Wong had described the Solomon Islands’ security pact with China as the worst Australian foreign policy failure in the Pacific since WWII.
The controversial deal became a major election campaign issue which prompted criticism of the way the Coalition had handled Australia’s relationship with Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison conceded in May that he hadn’t spoken to Mr Sogavare over the phone during the election campaign despite widespread alarm over the security agreement.
Originally published as Anthony Albanese and Solomon Islands PM Sogavare hold first conversation
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