14 Jul 2009

Uncertainty surrounds Fiji attendance of French/Pacific summit in Noumea

1:32 pm on 14 July 2009

Uncertainty surrounds Fiji's possible attendance of this month's French summit with Pacific Island leaders in New Caledonia.

The Fiji foreign ministry, which is one of several ministries run by the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is refusing to say if it has received an invitation.

The French embassy in Suva has also declined to say what arrangements are being made.

The French high commission in Noumea, where the summit will be held on July the 31st, says it neither knows who has been invited nor whose attendance is confirmed.

When France held its Pacific summit in French Polynesia in 2003, the summit organisers flew a plane to Suva to pick up the Fiji prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, to help ensure maximum attendance for the pitch by France to integrate its territories into the Pacific Islands Forum.

However, Australia was absent from the event because the official proposed by Canberra was deemed by France not to be senior enough.

This year, France has downgraded the summit as it will not be chaired by the French President but the French foreign minister.