July 27, 2012

Fiji, NZ and Australia to hold democracy talks

The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr says he doesn't believe Fiji should be allowed back into the Pacific Islands Forum just yet.
Updated 27 July 2012, 7:23 AEST

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 Forum 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 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."

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