23 Jul 2010

Australia and New Zealand stand by criticism of Fiji meeting

8:07 am on 23 July 2010

Australia is standing by its approach on Fiji as the interim regime trumpets its ability to attract Pacific nations to the 'Engaging the Pacific' summit.

Leaders from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu are at the summit, along with representatives from Tonga, Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and East Timor.

Fiji's military ruler Frank Bainimarama says Australia has egg on its face and had been embarrassed because so many nations are attending the meeting.

But the Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says he rejects absolutely that Australia has tried to interfere in the workings of Fiji.

He says Australia believed the original MSG-Plus summit represented an attempt by Commodore Bainimarama to undermine the standing of the Pacific Island Forum.

The regime's Ministry of Information says it has received strong backing from the countries attending the Nadi meeting.

The agency says they've expressed strong backing for the Strategic Framework for Change and the Roadmap to Democracy, following a presentation on how the Government saw the way forward to elections come 2014.

However, the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, says he is not expecting the countries attending the next Pacific Island Forum meeting in Vanuatu, to be calling for fiji to be returned to the fold.

"The Pacific that I meet, when I talk to them about the issue, they are resolute in the view that Fiji should remain excluded from the forum. What they often do talk about is that from time to time they engage in dialogue with the Fijian leadership. New Zealand does the same thing. We have diplomatic representation on the ground in Suva. Just because we are talking to someone, doesn't mean we accept their position."