Today in Canberra I met Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is visiting Australia as a guest of the Australian Government.
Australia values our close and constructive security relationship with Solomon Islands.
Since 2003, the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has assisted the Solomon Islands Government in the maintenance of security, law and justice, economic governance and improving the machinery of Government.
There are currently 115 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to the RAMSI military component, the Combined Task Force. Australian personnel serve alongside personnel from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.
I discussed with Prime Minister Lilo the gradual transition of RAMSI in line with the improved security situation in Solomon Islands.
In consultation with Solomon Islands and our regional partners, we are planning for the withdrawal of RAMSI’s military component in the second half of 2013.
Beyond the military transition, Australia will continue to support RAMSI, including support for a robust RAMSI police presence to continue building the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
Australia’s bilateral Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) with Solomon Islands supports the Pacific Patrol Boat Program and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
Australia’s DCP with Solomon Islands will continue following the withdrawal of RAMSI’s military component. I discussed with Prime Minister Lilo opportunities to enhance and strengthen practical cooperation under the DCP, including activities such as exercises or ship visits.