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'It's Micronesia's turn' to lead Pacific Islands Forum: Palau president

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KOROR (RNZ Pacific) — Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr, said in keeping with the “gentlemen's agreement,” it is Micronesia's turn to provide the next Pacific Islands Forum or PIF secretary-general.

The president said the Micronesian region will push for their nomination.

“The North (Pacific) deserves leadership representation in the PIF and we are united with our brothers and sisters in Micronesia in our decision to push hard on this issue,” Remengesau said in a statement.

In 2019, five presidents from the Micronesian region endorsed Marshall Islands' ambassador to the United States, Gerald Zackios, for the post.

The leaders of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia made the nomination to the current PIF chair.

Last year, the leaders emphasized “regional understanding that it is the Micronesia sub-regions turn in rotation to submit a candidate to be the next secretary general.”

Now, President Remengesau is reminding the Pacific leaders of the agreement.

The president said that it was Micronesia's understanding that the PIF secretary-general position rotated through all member countries.

And he took exception that secretary-general nominations had come from outside Micronesia. 

“Pursuant to this gentlemen's agreement, it is Micronesia's turn to nominate the PIF secretary-general. With so many secretary-general nominations being made from outside Micronesia, the PIF Secretariat may need to clarify the current state of this agreement,” he said.

Remengesau further added that he believed the position “symbolizes the inclusiveness of PIF.”

“A Micronesian SG would show that the Micronesian sub-region matters to PIF. Losing out on our turn would, unfortunately, send the opposite message.”

He also cautioned Pacific leaders about "external actors" influencing the nomination process. However, when Remengesau was asked about these actors he did not elaborate.

Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea will end her second three-year term this year.

The position has never been held by a representative from Micronesia.

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