Friday, July 27, 2012

Fiji Should Not Yet Be Allowed Back into Pacific Forum

Australia Network News
 by Stephanie March

Fiji, NZ and Australia to hold Democracy talks

Senator Carr says Fiji has made 'good progress' on returning to democracy 
 Senator Carr (left) says Fiji has made 'good progress' on returning to democracy.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says he doesn't believe Fiji should be allowed back into the Pacific Islands Forum just yet.

Senator Carr was speaking ahead of a meeting he will have with his New Zealand counterpart and the interim Fijian government in Sydney on Monday.

The meeting will assess Fiji's attempts to return to democracy and honour its pledge to hold elections in 2014.

Slow progress on these issues contributed to the decision to suspend Fiji from the 16-nation group in May, 2009.

Senator Carr last met Fijian officials in May of this year, when he praised the regime for its ''positive progress'' towards holding elections.

"When [New Zealand Foreign Minister] Murray McCully and I were in Fiji as part of the Ministerial action group for consultations with the interim government and with the opposition, and with non-government organisations and civil society, we were able to receive assurances about the constitutional consultation towards elections in 2014," he told Radio Australia. "This meeting in Sydney on Monday will enable us - New Zealand and Australia - to get an update."

Senator Carr says that depending on the outcome of Monday's meeting, the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group may decide to visit Fiji again, but said there were no immediate plans to lift sanctions against Fiji.

"We remain engaged with Fiji. We don't want the people to suffer from the very targeted sanctions we applied when democracy was suspended - sanctions that applied to the travel and financial transactions of the government," he said. "But we are keen to see the country make the transition to democracy. "We'll make a decision on the lifting of sanctions when it's clear the commitment to democracy is irreversible, and the consultation we've got coming up in Sydney on Monday is part of that continuing engagement to see that the country is headed back towards democratic norms."

Maintaining sanctions

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully says he shares Australia's stance on maintaining sanctions against Fiji. Mr McCully says he doubts there will be grounds to lift economic and travel sanctions or push for Fiji to be readmitted to the Pacific Islands Forum.

"Any discussions that involve the sanctions are discussions we have with Australia first and foremost," he told Radio Australia' Pacific Beat program. "As far as the forum sanctions are concerned, the suspension from the forum, that's obviously a matter for the wider regional group, but these things are all in the future." 
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