US, Australia lift sanctions after Fiji elections

The United States and Australia said Friday they were ending sanctions against Fiji following elections in the Pacific island nation last month that ended eight years of military rule.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 31, 2014, 09:21 AM IST

Suva: The United States and Australia said Friday they were ending sanctions against Fiji following elections in the Pacific island nation last month that ended eight years of military rule.

US Ambassador Frankie Reed said that in recognition of Fiji`s return to democracy, Washington was lifting restrictions on financial assistance and visas, as well as exploring the resumption of engagement with the country`s military.

"We congratulate the people of Fiji on the swearing-in of a new government and the restoration of the country`s parliament," she said in a statement.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was committed to "normalising" relations between Canberra and Suva, which were frequently strained after military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama staged a bloodless coup in 2006.

"I announce the Australian government has lifted all remaining sanctions against Fiji," she said in a statement issued shortly after she arrived in Suva for a two-day visit.

"My visit demonstrates the Australian government`s commitment to taking our relationship with Fiji into a new era of partnership and prosperity."

Australia`s sanctions mainly consisted of visa restrictions on the regime of Bainimarama, who has successfully re-invented himself as a civilian leader and won by a landslide in elections held on September 17.

Bishop also announced aid for Fiji`s public service and tourism industry, as well as inviting the country to join a scheme that allows Pacific islanders into Australia for employment as seasonal farm workers.

Reports said Australia was also looking to resume military cooperation with Fiji, although no one from Bishop`s office was available to verify such a move.

Fiji`s military is a major source of troops for UN peacekeeping operations but there have been questions over the quality of their training because they have been unable to work with their Australian, US and New Zealand counterparts since 2006.