15 Jul 2008

Fiji meeting described as useful

1:54 pm on 15 July 2008

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters describes a meeting in Suva on Tuesday with Fiji's interim leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, as 'very useful', but has given few details.

Foreign ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tuvalu are in Fiji to press the interim government to honour promises to hold elections early in 2009.

Straight after the meeting, Mr Peters said the group has to assess the discussions. A formal statement will be made through the chairman of the Ministerial Group.

He said the group still has to meet other people in Fiji, including election officials, before the group makes a judgement.

Last month, Fiji suspended talks with the Fiji Joint Working Group, citing New Zealand and Australia's "neo-colonial" attitudes as one reason.

Mr Peters had expressed concern about Fiji's withdrawal from the group, saying that was a sign Fiji was moving away from its commitment to the election timetable.

Commodore Bainimarama says he wants to end corruption before polls can take place.

Fiji's interim attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed Khayum told Morning Report on Tuesday that New Zealand and Australia have been unwilling to engage in constructive discussions on democracy and described their position as "hypocritical".

The European Union said during the weekend it has deep concerns that Fiji is pushing back the timeline for elections.

2006 coup

The military took power in Fiji on 5 December, 2006. It was the fourth coup since 1987.

Commodore Bainimarama told his soldiers last month that elections promised for early next year were unlikely to take place because corruption problems remained.