Security, climate pact accepted by new Tuvalu government, says Australia

Credit: REUTERS/TUVALU METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY, March 26 (Reuters) - Australia and the Pacific Islands nation of Tuvalu will go ahead with a security and climate migration pact, after Tuvalu's new government agreed not to change the deal, Australia's Pacific Minister Pat Conroy told parliament on Tuesday.

The two nations had announced the deal in November, but it was thrown into doubt during an election campaign in the remote atoll nation of 11,000 people that is threatened by rising sea levels.

Feleti Teo became prime minister in February, after a general election closely watched by Taiwan, China, the United States and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific. Tuvalu is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing.

"The new Government of Tuvalu has confirmed its desire to proceed with the Falepili Union," Conroy said in parliament on Tuesday, as he tabled the deal for ratification.

Australia will work closely with Tuvalu to ensure its sovereignty is respected, he added.

"Australia commits to assist Tuvalu in responding to a major natural disaster, a health pandemic, or military aggression. This is predicated on Tuvalu requesting such assistance," he said.

Tuvalu will mutually agree any third party security or defence arrangements with Australia, he said.

The treaty allows for the migration of 280 people from Tuvalu to Australia each year, while also recognising Tuvalu's statehood will continue even if its land is inundated by climate-related sea level rises.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said it was "the most significant agreement between Australia and one of its Pacific partners since the agreements for Papua New Guinea's independence in 1975".

Tuvalu's government could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; editing by Miral Fahmy)

((Kirsty.Needham@thomsonreuters.com;))

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