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RNZ Pacific

Papua New Guinea and neighbouring Indonesia have been discussing a potential reopening of their shared border.

The border was officially closed early last year due to the covid-19 pandemic, but the illegal movement of people back and forth has continued across the porous international boundary.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape met with Indonesia’s Ambassador in Port Moresby, Andriana Supandy, and agreed that the border must be properly policed to prevent the spread of covid-19.

Indonesia’s heath system is being stretched with high covid infection rates, and PNG has also struggled to contain the spread of the virus.

No date has been given for when the border may reopen officially.

In others areas discussed, Supandy proposed for the two countries to enter into a Free Trade Agreement to boost trade and commerce, citing the potential as demonstrated in the success of vanilla trade between PNG and Indonesia.

The ambassador also informed Prime Minister Marape that Indonesia has already ratified the Border and Defence Cooperation Agreement and Land Border Transport Agreement and was awaiting PNG to do the same.

He said these agreements would pave the way for a more robust bilateral tie between the two countries.

On West Papua, the diplomat said that Indonesia appreciated the consistent position that PNG government has taken in acknowledging that the western half of New Guinea was an integral part of Indonesia.

He said the West Papuan self-determination demands remained an internal issue for Indonesia to resolve.

A release from Marape’s office also said both countries had discussed the need for joint cooperation in power connectivity to areas in PNG’s Western and West Sepik provinces.

Military donation
The Indonesian military has donated an aircraft engine to the PNG Defence Force Air Transport Squadron for one of its aircraft to be used for operations in the 2022 general election.

Marape also confirmed yesterday that US$14 million would be ballocated in 2021 and 2022 to ensure all aircraft were ready to be used next year.

The The National newspaper reports Marape saying the aircraft would also be used in enforce transborder security.

The head of the Indonesian National Armed Forces Strategic Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant-General Joni Supriyanto, arrived on a Lockheed C-130H Hercules in Port Moresby yesterday with the engine.

He said transporting the overhauled Casa aircraft engine to PNG “would enhance relationship and cooperation between the armed forces contributing to security and stability in the region”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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