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Albanese breaks ice with 'constructive' call to Solomons PM

Politics

Anthony Albanese says his first conversation since becoming prime minister with Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare has been “very constructive”, ahead of the NATO Summit in Spain.

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Speaking from the tarmac after arriving in Madrid overnight, Mr Albanese confirmed the two had spoken amid escalating regional tensions in the Pacific.

“We talked about the Pacific Island Forum that will be coming up and the important agreement that has been made, led by the Fijian prime minister, to make sure the Pacific Island Forum can remain united and strong,” he said.

“That’s an important breakthrough.

“Prime Minister Sogavare reconfirmed his position that Australia remains the security partner of choice.”

Mr Albanese says he and Mr Sogavare look forward to holding a meeting together at the forum, which will be held in Fiji mid-July.

China and the Solomon Islands have forged a security pact, concerning Pacific nations about Beijing’s expanding influence.

Australia has been invited to participate in the NATO Summit in Spain alongside New Zealand, Japan and South Korea as part of the Asia-Pacific Four.

Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will dominate discussions, the “challenge” of China will also be addressed.

Mr Albanese says if democratic nations stand together in “solidarity” with Ukraine, China will be forced to rethink its “forward leaning” actions.

“What we know is that this brutal invasion is having real consequences for the people of Ukraine,” he said.

“And the people of Ukraine are inspiring the world with struggling to defend their national sovereignty.”

Launching a packed week, Mr Albanese will meet with Spanish counterpart Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday, marking the first bilateral visit by an Australian prime minister.

The pair will discuss the Australia-European Union trade agreement, increasing economic opportunities and global security.

Later that evening, Mr Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon will attend the NATO gala dinner hosted by Spain’s monarch.

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