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Forum Ministerial Group to visit Fiji

Saturday 12 July 2008, 6:09AM

By Rt Hon Winston Peters

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Assisting Fiji to return to democratic rule is the aim of next week’s visit by the Forum Ministerial Contact Group, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said today.

The Contact Group, formed in March, comprises the Foreign Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu.

The group is scheduled to meet next Tuesday and Wednesday with members of the interim government, key political stakeholders, the Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group, and agencies and officials preparing Fiji for elections.

“This is an important visit – the first to Fiji by a group of Forum Foreign Ministers since the December 2006 coup,” Mr Peters said.

“Fiji’s interim government recently said it would like greater engagement with Forum members, and this visit could help Fiji move forward towards elections.

“Hopefully the Contact Group can encourage the interim government to reconsider its decision to suspend participation in the Joint Working Group, and the associated Donor Electoral Assistance Co-ordination Mechanism.

"We welcome the commitment of the interim government and leaders of Fiji's political parties to participate in next month’s Commonwealth dialogue process, led by Sir Paul Reeves.

“It has been clear for some time that the key players need to sit down and talk about Fiji’s problems. If the dialogue can build greater trust among Fiji's leaders, it may create a better climate for free and fair elections by the March 2009 deadline. It may also identify areas of further work that a legitimately elected government can commit to progressing in the longer term.

“New Zealand is also pleased that Fiji has appointed an Acting High Commissioner to Wellington. Given the importance of maintaining diplomatic engagement, we welcome the appointment,” said Mr Peters.