9 Jul 2009

Australia signals need to reengage with Fiji despite little hope for democracy

1:41 pm on 9 July 2009

Australia's foreign minister, Stephen Smith, says there is little confidence Fiji will return to democracy in the short term.

Mr Smith says the recent abrogation of the constitution and Commodore Frank Bainimarama's recent speech about elections in 2014 gives no confidence that there is any short-term prospect for advancement or for improvement.

But he says at some point in the process Fiji needs to be engaged in a dialogue about its return to democracy on a timetable which is much more realistic than the timetable outlined by the Commodore.

Mr Smith says reports the military leader is lobbying other Melanesian countries to oppose Fiji's exclusion from the Pacific Island Forum are not a concern.

The governments of Australia, the US, Samoa and the Cook Islands last week reacted negatively to last week's Fiji road map announcement.

Last week, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum declined comment but the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, now says 2014 as an election date is far off the Pacific leaders' expectations.

Mr Key is today in Niue where he will meet the outgoing Forum chair and Niue premier, Toke Talagi.