Pacific leaders congratulate Labor Albanians on election result

SYDNEY: The Solomon Islands congratulated Australia’s Labor leader Anthony Albanese on his election victory, saying “much remains to be done” in the bilateral relationship as Pacific Island neighbor Fiji welcomed the party climate policies.

Albanese said he would be sworn in as the 31st prime minister on Monday (May 23) along with four senior party members, even as vote counting continues, before heading to Tokyo for a “Quad” summit. Tuesday with US President Joe Biden and the prime ministers of Japan and India.

The Solomon Islands’ recent signing of a security pact with China was a major election issue for outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with Western allies concerned it could provide a gateway for a Chinese military presence in the Pacific.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to visit the Solomon Islands this week, local media reported, although Reuters could not confirm this with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s office.

In a statement on Sunday, Sogavare said his nation “remains Australia’s steadfast friend and preferred development partner.”

Solomon Islands is grateful for Australia’s financial, medical and security support over the years, he said, adding “however much remains to be done”.

Sogavare had written to Albanese and “assured him that he would take the Solomon Islands relationship with Australia to another level under Albanese.”

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama congratulated Albanese in a tweet, writing: “Of his many pledges of support to the Pacific, none is more welcome than his plan to put climate first.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had called Albanese on Sunday and that the two countries would continue to work together “deepening our partnership with our close friends in the Pacific and advancing our interests on the world stage.”

“Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand are at their best when we work together,” he said.

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