Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Australia follows NZ in relaxing Fiji travel ban

NZPA, 03 February 2010
Australia follows NZ in relaxing Fiji travel ban

Australia has followed New Zealand's lead and relaxed a travel ban on members of Fiji's military-led regime to allow the first Fijian minister to visit Canberra since a 2006 coup on the South Pacific island nation created a deep diplomatic rift.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he had invited his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, to a tri-lateral meeting in Canberra on to discuss restoring senior envoys to their posts in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.

The meeting will also be attended by New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully who last month agreed with his Fijian counterpart to allow an addition counsellor being appointed for Fiji in Wellington and for New Zealand in Suva with approval for deputy head of mission appointments in each capital to follow soon.

Smith said he expected the meeting would start the process of restoring all diplomatic heads their former posts. Australia was not backing down from its view that Fiji must return to democracy, he said. But he added, "we've also always made the point that there's a need to have a dialogue."

Fiji's Foreign Ministry confirmed today that Kubuabola was in Australia. He could not be immediately contacted for comment.

Fijian military commander and self-appointed leader Frank Bainimarama has resisted international pressure to restore democracy or to ease strict censorship before his timetable for elections in 2014.

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