Pacific Islands Forum leaders seek to avert 'Micronexit,' apologize to 5 nations

Forum appeals to the breakaway group to stay in the fold

Hoping to fix the rift in the Pacific Islands Forum, the “Fiji faction” has apologized to Micronesian nations over the impasse in the selection of the secretary-general.

The Forum appealed to the breakaway group to stay in the fold, vowing to revisit the February vote that triggered the resentment.

Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Kiribati have initiated the one-year process of withdrawal from the regional bloc in protest over the Forum’s renouncement of a “gentlemen’s agreement” to rotate the leadership selection among member nations.

During the Feb. 4 vote, the Forum picked Cooks Island Prime Minister Henry Puna over Marshall Islands' Ambassador Gerald Zackios, the Micronesian subregion’s candidate. Prior to the election, leaders of the Micronesian region had repeatedly warned they would quit the Forum if their turn to lead was shunned.

“Sorry to you my fellow Micronesian brothers,” Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, recalling his country’s own suspension from the PIF in 2009.

According to Loop PNG News, Bainimarama, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Forum's outgoing secretary-general, Dame Meg Taylor, offered individual apologies during the virtual Forum Troika Monday and acknowledged that the situation could have been managed differently and better.

Presidents Lionel Aingimea and David Panuelo, of Nauru and FSM, respectively, were in attendance, according to Loop PNG.

Marape appealed to Micronesia not to leave the Forum and encouraged the leaders to “break bread” and "right the wrong."