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RNZ Pacific

The New Zealand government is again calling on the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) to release the kidnapped pilot Phillip Mehrtens.

Tomorrow will mark one year since the 38-year-old New Zealander was taken hostage in Papua by independence fighters in the Nduga Regency province.

Mehrtens was taken hostage a year ago on February 7 in Paro, Papua, while providing vital air links and supplies to remote communities.

In a statement yesterday, Foreign Minister Winston Peters strongly urged the West Papuan pro-independence fighters holding Mehrtens to release him immediately without harm.

Peters said his continued detention served nobody’s interests.

“We strongly urge those holding Phillip to release him immediately and without harm,” he said.

For the last year, a wide range of New Zealand government agencies has been working extensively with Indonesian authorities and others towards securing Mehrtens release.

The response, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has also been supporting his family.

The Foreign Minister said they knew Mehrtens was able to contact some friends and family just before Christmas to assure them that he was alive and well.

He said he had spoken with the Mehrtens family recently and assured them the government was exploring all avenues to bring the pilot home.

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

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