18 Aug 2008

Fiji pulls out of Forum Summit over exclusion from post-meeting bilateral talks

6:30 pm on 18 August 2008

The interim government of Fiji has withdrawn from attending the Pacific Islands Forum summit in Niue as a protest at being excluded from scheduled post summit talks.

Little over a day out from the start of the summit, Fiji's interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced the withdrawal in a statement.

He says his delegation will not be attending in protest at being unable to attend the series of bi-lateral talks in Auckland immediately after this week's Niue event.

A tight Forum Summit schedule this year meant that the bilateral talks with post-Forum dialogue partners like Canada, the United Kingdom, the USA, Japan and China had to be hosted in Auckland.

The Fiji government spokesman Neumi Leweni says the New Zealand government decision not to allow its delegation visas denies it an important opportunity to participate in integral Forum meetings.

"They only allowed Fiji to transit and then to hold the post-Forum discussions in Niue and not in Auckland like the rest of the participating countries."

Earlier, New Zealand had made an exception to the travel ban imposed on members of the Fiji administration and military, to approve transit visas for the Fijian delegation so they could travel through Auckland to get to Niue.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark says it appears that Fiji is just looking for an excuse not to attend,

It was not New Zealand's intention to provide him with an excuse not to come which is why I agreed that he should be able to transit through Auckland airport alone.

Helen Clark says Pacific Island leaders are likely to view Fiji's non-attendance as a direct snub.