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Australia chips in $17 million to help Solomon Islands host Pacific Games

Australia will chip in around $17 million to help Solomon Islands host the 2023 Pacific Games as part of its efforts to counter the growing influence of Beijing in the region, a contribution that was welcomed by the country as the second largest after China.

Solomon Islands has again been a focus of diplomatic efforts by Australia and the US this week, as Pacific Minister Pat Conroy, US deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy attended the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal in Honiara.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese meets with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare earlier this eyarCredit:Joe Armao

But Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare failed to attend the commemoration, organised by the US, in a move local media reported as a “snub” and Sherman labelled a “missed” opportunity. Both Australia and the US have stepped up their outreach to the country, and the broader Pacific region, after China signed a security pact with the Solomons earlier this year.

Conroy announced Australia would contribute $100 million Solomon Island dollars, the equivalent of around $17.3 million, to the Pacific Games following a three-day visit to the country. The trip included a bilateral meeting with Sogavare who again gave assurances there would be no Chinese military base on the islands.

“Our security partnership was obviously one part of that [meeting], where the prime minister repeated his assurance that Australia is the security partner of choice for the Solomon Islands and that he and the Solomon Islands government would come to Australia first if there are any gaps that need to be filled,” Conroy said.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on a three-day visit to the country.Credit:Joe Armao

“Australia is the largest development partner of the Solomon Islands and we are working on so many joint projects to advance our shared economic interests, the Pacific Games being one example,” Conroy said.

Conroy’s meeting with Sogavare is the latest in a string of bilaterals between the leader and Australian ministers. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with Sogavare on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum, in Suva, Fiji last month and Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with him in June.

“What we’ve said to all Pacific Island leaders is with a new Australian government, you will get new energy from ministers and the prime minister.”

The Pacific Games are held every four years, with Australia among the Oceania nations to send teams to compete. The $17.3 million contribution to the games is part of Australia’s overall $161 million aid spend in the Solomon Islands this financial year.

Sogavare welcomed Australia’s funding as the second-largest contribution after China, which has agreed to bankroll the construction of a $74 million stadium for the event.

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