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The World's Gaze Turns to the South Pacific (Page 2 of 3)

Importantly, fiscal mechanisms were also put in place to help island states cope financially with the impact of climate change.

Tuvalu, at its highest point, is just 4.6 meters above sea level and this is typical of many islands within the PIF sphere of influence.

But it was the political front that stole the lion’s share of the spotlight.

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New Zealand has just completed its year as chair of the PIF. In handing over the Chair to the Cook Islands, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was adamant that the forum had flourished over the past year by taking a united stand on the international stage.

“The united Pacific front we have been able to present …amplifies our voice in putting specific issues squarely on the international agenda,” he said as part of an upbeat assessment of his country’s year at the helm despite the realities on the ground that paint a much different political and diplomatic picture.

For the wider world the PIF can command a strategically important bloc of votes at the United Nations, which makes it an alluring target for countries seeking support for their particular agendas. This includes the countries vying for one of the five non-permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council at a vote that will be held in about six weeks.

Winning friends, however, is an expensive business and no nation has been more eager to win friends in the Pacific over recent years than Russia, which was notably absent from the summit and politely ignored in speeches by the likes of Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Gillard.

Insiders told The Diplomat that Moscow had sent “a demand” for an invitation to this year’s meeting but decided to stay away after realizing it would be lumped under the category of “attending” countries alongside Taiwan as opposed to being a full “dialogue partner,” a status enjoyed by the likes of the U.S., China, and even Britain.

“Russia is getting engaged in the Pacific because like the two other major powers U.S. and China, they are all ‘pivoting” into the Pacific and want to shadow each others’ moves,” Ben Sims, Research Associate at the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, told The Diplomat.

“Note that Russia is hosting the APEC summit in coming weeks in Vladivostok, on its Pacific coast,” he said of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) group.

Importantly, he also said Russia was courting islands to help recognize breakaway Caucus states — such as Abkhazia, which is recognized by Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Nauru — garner future U.N. votes, and probably look for resources and potential navy bases.

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