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Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
7 June 2001
International Peace Monitoring Team: Shooting Incident
I was most concerned to hear that shots were fired in the direction of two members of the International Peace Monitoring Team (IPMT) in Solomon Islands yesterday.
I have been advised that the two IPMT members, an Australian Defence civilian and a Cook Islands policeman, were travelling by boat in West Guadalcanal when several shots were fired in their direction from the shore. There were no injuries and the monitors returned unharmed to their team site at Varanaaso in West Guadalcanal.
As the safety of the monitors is of course my first consideration, the monitoring team has been withdrawn from Varanaaso while the incident is being investigated. IPMT operations in other parts of the country are proceeding as usual.
The 43-strong IPMT, which has been operating on Guadalcanal and Malaita since November 2000, is in Solomon Islands at the request of the parties to the Townsville Peace Agreement. The IPMT's mandate was agreed by the parties, who at the same time provided guarantees of the safety of IPMT personnel. It has always been clear that the IPMT will stay in Solomon Islands only as long as it is welcome and its neutrality is respected.
This latest incident would appear to be an isolated one but the IPMT is consulting with Solomon Islands authorities and former militant representatives to make a full assessment of the situation.
I have instructed the IPMT Leader, Australian diplomat David Hegarty, and the Australian High Commissioner in Solomon Islands Martin Sharp to convey my concerns to the parties to the Townsville Peace Agreement.
Media inquiries: Matt Francis (Ministerial) (02) 6277 7500 or
Julie McDonald (Departmental) (02) 6261 1555