March 12, 2013

Diplomatic impasse with Fiji

Wed, 06 Mar 2013 1:25p.m.

As Australia attempts to fully restore diplomatic ties with Fiji, the New Zealand Government has confirmed it also wants to appoint a permanent high commissioner to Suva.

Australia has appointed Margaret Twomey to the role but Frank Bainimarama's military regime has so far failed to allow her into the country.

News of the diplomatic impasse emerged on Tuesday, the same day as a shocking new video allegedly depicting Fijian authorities beating and torturing prisoners.

A thorough investigation has been promised.

Australia and New Zealand agreed with Fiji in July last year to exchange high commissioners, ending a three-year hiatus and signalling a significant thaw in relations that have been frosty since Commodore Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr subsequently appointed Ms Twomey and hoped she would begin last month but the process appears to have stalled with Fiji so far failing to approve her visa.

Fiji kicked out Australia's last high commissioner and New Zealand's acting head of mission in 2009.

New Zealand appointed Phillip Taula as acting head of mission in March 2010 and he is currently acting high commissioner.

"We are seeking agreement from the Fijian authorities for a permanent high commissioner and are awaiting a response," Foreign Minister Murray McCully told NZ Newswire.

Mr Carr said Fiji had not even nominated anyone to fill its high commission in Canberra.

Fiji's high commission in Wellington is run by acting head of mission Mere Tora.


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