Jakarta. Indonesia has been bumped up to an associate member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), while a pro-independence coalition from West Papua has been granted observer status.
Leaders from Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia's pro-independence movement, the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), signed a joint communique in the Solomon's capital Honiara on Thursday.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULM), which represents a number of pro-independence groups in Indonesia's two easternmost provinces, had sought full membership in a bid to push for self determination and to air human rights grievances.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement that the ULM was given observer status a "development partner representing the welfare of Melanesian people living outside," Radio New Zealand International reported.
Indonesia — which was granted observer status in 2011 — will be represented by leaders of from its ethnic Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, according to AFP.
The ULM bid is the second time West Papua's pro-independence movement has attempted to gain membership to the MSG. A similar bid in October 2013 by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) was rejected.
Indonesia stepped up its lobbying of Melanesian states to prevent the ULM proposal succeeding this year.
President Joko Widodo visited MSG member state PNG in May and called for closer ties with the country.
Foregin Affairs Minister Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi, meanwhile, took a whirlwind tour of three Melanesian states to discourage support of the ULM bid in March.