Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mrs Clinton and Mr McCully Talks Focused on Democracy in Fiji

NZ Heral News - 18 May 2011
by Audrey Young with NZPA

Prime Minister John Key will be invited to the White House this year by President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.

"I know President Obama is looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Key to the Oval Office later this summer," she said after talks this morning with Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Washington.

Mr Key was invited to Washington last year to the nuclear summit hosted by President Obama, and the pair have met at Apec summits and at the United Nations in New York.

But Mr Key has been anxious to get his own bilateral meeting.

The last bilateral visit by a New Zealand Prime Minister was in March 2007 by Helen Clark, when president George W Bush was in office.

Today's talks between Mrs Clinton and Mr McCully focused on democracy in Fiji.

  • It follows an escalation in tension between Fiji and Tonga, after a former top lieutenant of the Fiji military fled to Tonga last week.
  • Mr McCully said Lt. Col. Ratu Tevita Mara was once the "number three man" of Commodore Frank Bainimarama who seized power in a 2006 coup.
  • Mr McCully said it was a sign Bainimarama's grip on power has weakened.
  • Mara was accused of plotting a rebellion. Fiji is seeking his extradition.
  • Mr McCully said Tonga's involvement could create tension in the region.
  • "The level of tension that exists between Fiji and Tonga at the moment requires us to keep an eye on things but no-one's looking to get involved in what should be a bilateral dispute at this stage," he told Newstalk ZB.

He described his meeting with Mrs Clinton as particularly positive about co-operation in the Pacific and upbeat and bullish about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Mr McCully says both countries are mindful of the wider implications for the Pacific region if things don't get sorted out diplomatically.

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