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Oz, New Zealand restore diplomatic ties with Fiji

Oz and New Zealand agreed to restore diplomatic ties with Fiji after assurance that it will hold democratic elections in 2014.



Melbourne: Australia and New Zealand on Monday agreed to restore full diplomatic ties with Fiji after the troubled Pacific Island nation assured that it will hold democratic elections in 2014.

The three countries will exchange High Commissioners again as Fiji moves towards elections in 2014, officials said.

The foreign ministers of Australia, Fiji and New Zealand - Bob Carr, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and Murray McCully - met in Sydney today to discuss the elections, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

They agreed that the countries would exchange High Commissioners to "ensure channels of dialogue between the respective countries were open and effective", the ministers said in a joint statement.

Fiji expelled Australia`s High Commissioner James Batley in November 2009, and then in 2010 also expelled acting high commissioner Sarah Roberts. New Zealand`s High Commissioner was also forced to leave.

The three countries have maintained diplomatic relations, but at a minimal level, since then.

During the meeting Kubuabola provided an update on progress in Fiji towards the elections, including preparations for constitutional consultations and electronic voter registration.

Carr said he had raised concerns about media freedoms and human rights in the country but Kubuabola reiterated his government`s commitment that free, fair and inclusive elections could be held.

The three ministers agreed to consider more flexible implementation of travel sanctions on a case-by-case basis, Senator Carr said.

Relations have been strained between the countries since Fiji`s government was overthrown in 2006 by a military coup staged by Frank Bainimarama, now Fiji`s Prime Minister.

Fiji was subsequently suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009, with a contact group established to continue dialogue with the regime.

The foreign ministers said the reestablishment of diplomatic ties followed "positive momentum" generated by the contact group during a visit to Fiji earlier this year.

PTI

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