Foreign minister justifies the easing of sanctions on Fiji
New Zealand foreign minister says eased sanctions on Fiji the right thing to do because of the progress made towards elections next year.
The New Zealand foreign minister says Wellington's sanctions against Fiji were eased last month not to please Suva but because it was the right thing to do because of progress towards elections next year.
Murray McCully says Fiji's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth remains, now four years since the Fiji regime reneged on its promise to return the country to democracy.
He says the Forum's ministerial contact group still wants to go to Fiji after an August trip was called off.
MURRAY McCULLY: It clashed with a very important meeting involving small island developing states, so that was going to take the host minister, amongst others, out of play. So we're looking to try and reschedule that meeting of the ministerial contact group. We're keen to try and do something this year so we can give an update to forum leaders.
SALLY ROUND: And any idea timing-wise?
MM: No, I haven't got any dates yet, but I'm working on that at the moment. I think it's important that we are able to provide a regular update. What I can say is that from a bilateral point of view New Zealand has been involved in discussions with a number of those planning the elections process in Fiji. We've had the deputy chief of the electoral office several times visit Fiji to look at the areas in which we can best help, and as of today, I understand it, we have two technical experts from our electoral office in Fiji offering assistance as part of that programme. I know that electoral experts have also been accepted from several other countries. So there's a wider pattern of assistance here for Fiji as they plan what's going to be a significant electoral undertaking.
SR: Now, Fiji gave a fairly flippant response to your announcement of a further easing of sanctions, in effect saying it was too little, too late. Was that a surprise to you, their response?
MM: No, not at all. I think I've said on a number of occasions, we are aware that Fiji has a certain view about the sanctions regime. We accept that as we make modifications to it that they're going to draw attention to their dissatisfaction with the sanctions in the first place. We're not doing this to try and please them. We're doing this because we think it's right. We think that the progress that is being undertaken in relation to elections should be recognised and that New Zealand sanctions should be modified accordingly, and that's something we'll continue to do.
SR: The European Union has just extended its measures on Fiji. They want to see if elections are indeed going to be free and fair before they lift them, and that could be after the elections. Don't you think that new zealand was a bit premature?
MM: No, I think it's an entirely reasonable approach for them to adopt and our sanctions regime remains in place in the same way the suspension from the Commonwealth, the suspension from the forum remains, as well. But within that framework we've got to try and find ways of encouraging progress and recognising that assistance is going to be needed if elections are going to be successful there. So I think we need to understand that there are some things that best wait until the elections have been held and other things that can best be undertaken now because they'll contribute to freer and fairer elections behind held. And we're trying to apply our judgement so that we get these things right. And I think others in the international community are trying to do the same.
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