12 Oct 2010

Canberra says Melanesian leaders still concerned by Fiji's lack of democracy

8:28 pm on 12 October 2010

Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, Richard Marles, says Melanesian leaders are still concerned about Fiji's slow progress towards democracy.

A special meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group was mapped out while leaders were in New York for the UN General Assembly last month.

Although not formally confirmed, it is due to be held in Solomon Islands next week and sources say it will involve a reconciliation ceremony and handing the chairmanship to Fiji will be discussed.

However Mr Marles, who has just visited Solomons and Papua New Guinea, says leaders in the region continue to support for the Pacific Island Forum's position in Fiji

"They have a sense of wanting to see a return of Fiji to the fold, and to be honest that sentiment is shared by everyone and it is shared by Australia, but they understand that for Fiji to return to the fold in circumstances other than the restoration of democracy would have profoundly negative effects for our region."

Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles