Tuesday, 15 July 2008 11:23 PM

Regional Foreign Ministers Arrive in Fiji for Talks

Foreign Ministers from around the region arrived in Fiji this week to meet and discuss Fiji's progress towards democracy.

The Ministers arrived in Fiji as part of the Pacific Forum Ministerial Contact Group monitoring Fiji's progress to elections.
Among them was Australia's Foreign Minister, Steven Smith, who was pleased to be 'the first Australian minister to visit Fiji since the coup in 2006' as reported by Fiji Times Online. He said that it is 'very important to the region that Fiji is a fully-fledged member of the Pacific Islands Forum and other like bodies'.
He also said that the interim Government 'gave a commitment to take Fiji to elections by the end of the first quarter of 2009' and that that "was a faithful and unconditional commitment given by Commodore Bainimarama and the ministerial contact group has been charged with making a judgement about the willingness and preparedness for that election and to report to the Pacific Island Forum Leaders in Niue in August".

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, is also in Fiji. Australia and New Zealand have continuously spoken out against the 2006 coup and relations between their governments and Fiji's military-backed interim government have been strained since.

Pacific Working Group chair and Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister, Samuel Abal, also in Suva, Fiji, stated that 'PNG would like Fiji to work with the working group because the working group is part of a Forum process' and that they would welcome Fiji back.
He added that they 'welcome the invitation of the interim government to allow the contact group to come and meet with them' in Fiji and that it "is important for PNG to stand by Fiji but at the same time help them realise the way things have to go are ways and terms of using principles of democracy, for the election to come."

Meanwhile, earlier the European Union, who had sent a group to Fiji last month to assess the situation, has expressed doubts that Fiji will meet its deadline for democratic elections.
According to Fiji Times Online, Pacnews reported the EU as saying 'the absence of democratic rule was a cause for deep concern'.

Fiji's deadline for the democratic elections is February 2009.

The members of the Pacific Forum Ministerial Contact Group met today.

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