4 Feb 2010

Cautious welcome to signs of possible Fiji diplomatic thaw

3:27 pm on 4 February 2010

A New Zealand-based Fiji democracy group says Canberra and Wellington should be cautious as they attempt to restore diplomatic ties with the military-led regime in Suva.

The foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand met with their Fiji counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola yesterday to discuss ways to improve relations and strengthen their diplomatic missions.

Nik Naidu, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji, says there is now an opportunity to improve the situation in Fiji.

But he says full engagement with Fiji cannot happen until the regime refrains from abusing human rights, reinstates proper laws, and ends media censorship.

"You need to be optimistic about these things but at the same time you need to be cautious because we are dealing with an illegal military regime and they have in the past changed the game plan and reneged on promises."

Nik Naidu says nominating a military figure, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, to represent Fiji in Wellington is not a good sign that Fiji is genuine about re-engaging with New Zealand.

Meanwhile New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has ruled out easing a travel ban for Fiji's regime following the talks.

Mr McCully says his country is planning to take a number of short steps rather than one big leap towards better relations.

He says New Zealand is not planning to ease the travel restrictions.

I'm sure that the Fijians would be ecstatic if they could achieve that. But I made it clear that's not on our immediate agenda. That's one of the issues that we'll get into when we have the machinery to conduct a proper dialogue.

Murray McCully says the talks spilled over into wider areas of disagreement between New Zealand and the military regime, but they were basically about opening lines of communication.