18 Dec 2008

NZ's Foreign Minister will today reply to Fiji's interim PM's letter

12:30 pm on 18 December 2008

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully will today reply to Fiji's interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, as the diplomatic stand-off between the two countries continues.

Commodore Bainimarama yesterday wrote to Mr McCully, outlining his objections to New Zealand's post-coup travel ban for members of the Fiji military, government and their families.

The letter did not refer to the status of New Zealand's acting High Commissioner in Suva, whom Fiji has threatened to expel.

Murray McCully describes the Commodore's letter as "robust" and a vigorous statement of his views.

"I'm in no doubt as to how he feels but on the issue of the status of the high commissioner is still at her post and we have received no communication that changes that situation."

Murray McCully says he will discuss the matter with officials before responding in writing today.

Meanwhile, Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said any attempts by Fiji to expel New Zealand's top diplomat would be a backward step for Fiji.

The permanent secretary of Fiji's President, whose son is embroiled in a diplomatic row with New Zealand, says he has no plans to quit his job so his son can complete his degree.

Rupeni Nacewa says his son is disappointed, but he was appointed to do a job.

He says he has not approached the interim government to intervene.

I mean, I am a career civil servant, and I have been with the president's office since 2004, so I see no no reason why I should give up my job. As a civil servant you work for any government, the government of the day whether it's legitimate or....

Rupeni Nacewa says he thinks the New Zealand government is being too harsh, especially on innocent children.

But Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Helen Clark says no government can back down in the face of the kind of threats Fiji is making.

Well there is no doubt in my mind that you can't give into a threat like this Mr McCully has just been up to Suva with other Forum foreign ministers from around the Pacific. It's my understanding that Fiji showed no signs of coming along the pathway that the Pacific Islands Forum wants to help it along.

Helen Clark says if Fiji were to set a date for an election it would be a different matter.