PNG Lifts Travel Ban To Bougainville For Australians; Previously Issued Due To ‘Serious Lapse In Communication’

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IN PHOTO: Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill (L) is greeted by children upon his arrival to attend the 7th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM7) in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 22, 2015. Leaders of Japan and Pacific island countries gathered in the northern Japanese city of Iwaki on Friday to strengthen their ties in economic matters and disaster prevention ahead of the meeting. The meeting is a summit-level dialogue held every three years among Japan and the member states of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) which include Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. REUTERS/Kyodo

Papua New Guinea has lifted a ban on Australians travelling to the autonomous region of Bougainville, said its Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, claiming that both Australia and PNG governments have arrived at a common ground on issues concerning the ban.

Bougainville, an autonomous province of Papua New Guinea, named in the honour of a French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville.

Mr. Pato said in a press release on Monday that the limitations on Australians travelling to Bougainville have been lifted as of today.

Last week, Mr. Pato enforced a ban on Australian tourists, including short term entry visa-holders and business related visa-holders from entering the region. However, the ban wasn’t applicable for work and permanent visa-holders entering Bougainville.

Meanwhile, the president of Bougainville, John Momis has urged the PNG government to reconsider the ban, adding it goes against the spirit of the peace agreement that gave the island its autonomy.

When PNG government learned about the Australian government’s plans to open a foreign diplomatic mission in Bougainville during budget via the media, it offended the former.

However, Mr. Pato later said PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill "reaffirmed Papua New Guinea's position that the government does not approve of the establishment of an Australian diplomatic mission on Bougainville." "While the manner in which the proposal was announced was unfortunate, we have discussed the issue with our Australian colleagues," Mr. Pato added.

"We recognise that there is a serious lapse in communication and we can now move on from this issue."

Australian government reportedly began its first formal discussion around the proposed foreign mission on May 12. Meanwhile, Australian Foreign minister Julie Bishop said the issue was brought to the table in December 2014 as well as prior to the budget.

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