Leaders from Commonwealth member states in the Pacific are preparing to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II who died in Scotland last week, aged 96.
New Zealand and Australia say they are ready to help any Pacific delegation get to the United Kingdom for the memorial service at Westminster Abbey on September 19.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade says New Zealand is also assisting with international flights and accommodation in London.
“New Zealand is providing assistance to the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Mark Brown, and the Premier of Niue, Dalton Tagelagi,” a MFAT statement said.
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Commonwealth members in the Pacific include Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. New Zealand realm nations Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau also have King Charles III as their head of state.
Tonga’s King Tupou VI heads to the UK on Thursday, a palace official said. The king will be accompanied on an Australian-organised flight by Samoa’s head of state, Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II, Masiofo Fa’amausili and chief executive in the PM’s office, Agafili Shem Leo.
Officials from the Solomons, PNG and Tuvalu have also accepted the offer to travel from Australia to London – a journey that is expected to take about 22 hours.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is attending the Queen’s funeral and leaves for London on Thursday. Other New Zealanders attending the funeral include the Māori King, Kiingi Tūheitia, former Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Victoria Cross for New Zealand recipient, Willie Apiata, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Sir Don McKinnon, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Jacinda Amey, Sir Tipene O’Regan, Aivale Cole, Whaea Esther Jessop and Jacqueline Gilbert.
World leaders have been urged to arrive in the UK on commercial flights because Heathrow Airport will not be available for private flight arrangements or aircraft parking.
MFAT said Ardern is flying commercially.
The UK government also said visiting dignitaries could not use their own state cars but would be bussed to Westminster from a meeting point in west London.
Due to security concerns, an exception is being made for Joe Biden to arrive in his armoured presidential limousine, the White House said.
The Queen and Prince Philip, who died in April last year aged 99, had visited the Pacific multiple times during her 70-year reign. They both toured Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, PNG, Solomons, Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu.
Queen Elizabeth also had a special relationship with Tonga and the royal family there after the late Queen Sālote Tupou III attended her coronation in London.
Albanese will be accompanied by Governor-General David Hurley, and Australia’s acting high commisisoner to the UK, Lynette Wood, among others.
Albanese told Parliament on Monday that arrangements are being finalised between government departments, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Pacific nations “so the leaders can travel together to London”.
“We want to make sure that no nation in our region, in the Pacific, as part of the Pacific family, is unable to attend the memorial service for Queen Elizabeth because of logistical concerns,” Albanese said
The Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, under intense scrutiny over his recent security pact with China, will not attend the Queen’s funeral. Governor-General Sir David Vunagi will represent the Solomons, the PM said on Wednesday.
Sogavare last week blasted the Albanese government for going public with an offer to help fund his nation’s elections next year, which is now being postponed to 2024.
Albanese said, “In some cases, it will require Australia to go to their countries in order to pick people up if that’s available. It is important that we continue to provide whatever support that we do for the Pacific family.”
The state funeral on September 19 will be followed by a procession from Westminster to Windsor Castle where the Queen will be laid to rest at St George’s Chapel, close to Philip and her father King George VI.
There will be a one-off public holiday in New Zealand on September 26 to mark the Queen’s death.
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