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Australia rushes peacekeeping force to Solomon Islands

Australia rushes peacekeeping force to Solomon Islands

SYDNEY: Australia announced the snap deployment of a police and military peacekeeping force to the Solomon Islands on Thursday (Nov 25), hoping to quell two days of riots that threaten to topple the government in Honiara.

“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The deployment was already underway following a request for assistance from Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, he added.

“When they need our help, they will receive it,” Morrison said.

Just over 100 police officers and soldiers will take part in a mission expected to last “a matter of weeks”.

On Wednesday, protesters attempted to storm parliament and depose Sogavare, setting fire to an outbuilding and looting nearby shops.

On Thursday they defied a government lockdown and swarmed the city’s Chinatown district, setting several buildings alight including commercial properties and a bank branch.

By sunset, blazes dotted the Honiara skyline and plumes of thick black smoke billowed high above the city.

The riots have been prompted by tensions between residents of Malaita province and the Guadalcanal-based central government.

Morrison said the Australian security force would not seek to resolve that conflict but instead focus on restoring calm.

“It is not the Australian government’s intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands, that is for them to resolve,” he said.

Australia led a peacekeeping mission to the Solomons from 2003 to 2017, saying it was needed to prevent the country becoming a “failed state”.

The deployment – named the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands – ended up costing about US$2.2 billion and critics said it dragged on too long because it was launched without a clear exit strategy.

Australia rushes peacekeeping force to Solomon Islands

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