Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Prime Minister to visit Fiji for first time in 10 years

That was the first face to face meeting between the two Prime Ministers since the 2006 coup. Photos / File
That was the first face to face meeting between the two Prime Ministers since the 2006 coup. Photos / File

Prime Minister John Key will visit Fiji next week, saying Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's 2006 coup that sparked a 10-year long gap between top-level visits was "ancient history".

Mr Key will travel to Suva to meet with Commodore Bainimarama and visit areas affected by Cyclone Winston next Thursday.

The pair first broke the ice last year on neutral ground at the United Nations in New York. That was the first face to face meeting between the two Prime Ministers since the 2006 coup, after which the former Labour Government put sanctions on Fiji. Those were continued by Mr Key's government until democratic elections in 2014.

Mr Key said his visit was part of a renewal of political and diplomatic links with Fiji.

"At the end of the day it's ancient history about New Zealand's concerns of the military coup."

He said the sanctions were the right steps to take. "But we always said once they got to the point of having free and fair elections we would normalise the relationship. It is an important relationship for us in the Pacific."

He believed it was important that the "bigger partner" had extended a hand and offered to visit.

Although Bainimarama has continued to rail against the influence of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific, relations improved further after New Zealand gave $15 million in aid and sent the Defence Force to Fiji to help with the cleanup after Cyclone Winston.

Mr Key said Fiji's recovery from that would be discussed as well as Pacer Plus Trade negotiations - a Pacific-wide trade agreement to help bolster the Pacific Islands economies.

Fiji is a lynchpin in the Pacific for trade. Mr Key said he would also meet with business representatives and visit the reconstruction work done by the New Zealand Defence Force after Cyclone Winston. It was one of New Zealand's largest peacetime deployments.

"New Zealand was proud to stand alongside its neighbour in a time of need and our relationship is now stronger as a result.

- NZ Herald

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