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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Rafqa Touma

Tuvalu to revisit deal that gives Australia control of island nation’s security agreements

Aerial view of Funafuti, the main island of Tuvalu
Tuvalu’s new government supports the ‘broad principles and objectives’ of the Tuvalu-Australia Falepili Union but has questioned an ‘absence of transparency’. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

Tuvalu’s new government has questioned the “absence of transparency” in a security and migration pact the country signed with Australia last November, throwing the landmark deal into doubt.

While the government expressed support for the “broad principles and objectives” of the Tuvalu-Australia Falepili Union in a “statement of priorities” posted to X by member of parliament Simon Kofe, it also acknowledged “the absence of transparency and consultations in socializing and informing the public in Tuvalu of such an important and groundbreaking initiative”.

The treaty was signed by the then prime minister Kausea Natano and prime minister Anthony Albanese last November. It offers permanent residency to up to 280 Tuvaluan citizens a year affected by the climate crisis, and includes a security clause that in effect gives Australia veto power on Tuvalu entering into security agreements with others. The pact was signed at a time of growing competition for influence in the Pacific.

Feleti Teo, a former attorney general and government official, was elected prime minister on Monday. His new government’s statement expresses intentions to work with the Australian government “towards a workable arrangement in advancing the objectives of the special union between Tuvalu and Australia, in particular safeguarding the integrity of the sovereignty of Tuvalu”.

Teo’s government reaffirms relations with Taiwan in the same statement.

“The new government wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the long-term and lasting special relationship between Tuvalu and the Republic of China, Taiwan,” the statement said. “It intends to reassess options that would strengthen and lift it to a more durable, lasting, and mutually beneficial relationship.”

A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said “Australia stands ready to engage with prime minister Teo and his government on the priorities they have outlined”.

“Australia welcomes Tuvalu reiterating its support for the broad principles and objectives of the Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union,” the spokesperson continued.

“We look forward to working with prime minister Teo and his government, including on the Falepili Union.”

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