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Pacific island leaders united on Fiji ban, encouraged by progress

08-31-2012 16:46 BJT

AITUTAKI, Cook Islands, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Fiji will remain outside the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) until the military-led regime honors a pledge to hold democratic elections, PIF leaders said Thursday.

Despite the fact that Pacific island nations were re-engaging with Fiji in other organizations, PIF leaders were united in wanting to maintain the integrity of the forum, PIF chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said.

Other Pacific island nations were taking their lead from Australia and New Zealand, particularly in re-engaging with Fiji at a high level as the two biggest South Pacific nations had done when they reopened their consulates in Fiji, he said.

"There is an understanding and acceptance that the integrity of the forum position reached in 2009 must be maintained for sake of the integrity of the organization and also because some very clear fundamental principles were set out," Puna said at a press conference at the close of this year's PIF meeting.

"That has been accepted by all forum island countries. But at the same time on the other hand there is a desire to see Fiji reengaged with the forum island countries."

Pacific island nations were sending encouraging signals by engaging with Fiji as individual states and in organizations such as the Pacific states of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of nations.

A meeting of Pacific island governments would be held in Papua- New Guinea later this year where they would discuss expanding Fiji 's inclusion in Pacific island events and organizations.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said PIF leaders had maintained the position on Fiji that they took last year, but they had acknowledged Fiji had made some progress in its constitutional review.

New Zealand and Australia stood read to help Fiji hold democratic and fair elections in 2014, he said.

"We wouldn't say the progress is perfect, but we would say that they are making some progress," Key said at the press conference.

In May, Pacific leaders said they had been encouraged by moves taken by the military-led government in Fiji to return the island nation to a parliamentary democracy with elections by September 2014.

The PIF Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) concluded a two-day visit to Fiji in April, after meeting politicians, and civil society and union representatives. Fiji has been subject to Pacific-wide sanctions since a military-led coup in 2006.

Fiji's new constitution is expected to be adopted in March 2013.


Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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