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

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama greets John Key in Fiji

John Key was greeted at Suva's Nausori Airport with a handshake by Mr Bainimarama and a guard of honour of 100 Fijian troops. Photo / Claire Trevett
John Key was greeted at Suva's Nausori Airport with a handshake by Mr Bainimarama and a guard of honour of 100 Fijian troops. Photo / Claire Trevett

Prime Minister John Key has been greeted warmly by Fiji's PM Frank Bainimarama after landing in Suva on his first visit to Fiji.

Mr Key's one night stay is the first visit by a New Zealand leader since the 2006 coup.

Mr Key was greeted at Suva's Nausori Airport with a handshake by Mr Bainimarama and a guard of honour of 100 Fijian troops.

Mr Key was then taken off for a sevusevu - traditional Fijian greeting - during which Mr Key will partake of kava. A banquet will also be held in his honour tonight.

The visit is the result of an olive branch extended between the two Prime Ministers in New York last year and is aimed at trying to restore the relationship to the pre-coup levels.

That work will begin in earnest on Friday when Mr Key and Mr Bainimarama will meet formally.

That meeting is likely to focus on issues such as the Cyclone Winston recovery, trade, and Mr Key's attempt to get Mr Bainimarama to return to the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr Bainimarama has snubbed that since Fiji's suspension was lifted in 2014, saying he will not return unless New Zealand and Australia have less away over it. Mr Key has said he will raise issues such as a ban on some New Zealand reporters.

However he is keen to move the relationship forward so is reluctant to relitigate past events or push Mr Bainimarama too hard on domestic issues.

Mr Bainimarama had declined to do any media interviews beyond a joint press conference with Mr Key after their meeting at which he will not take questions.

After meetings with Mr Bainimarama, Fiji's President Jioji Kanousi Konrote, and Leader of the Opposition Ro Teimumu Vuikaba Kepa, Mr Key will visit the HMNZS Otago. It is a Suva while patrolling the Pacific for illegal fishing. He will then visit Vaiyala School which was rebuilt by the NZ Defence Force after Cyclone Winston.

The Prime Minister and his entourage flew to Fiji on the RNZAF Hercules rather that the usual Boeing 737, which is too big to land at Suva.

The Hercules is usually used to shuttle troops and supplies around rather than VIPs. It lacks the usual VIP accoutrements - even the toilet is just a bucket with a curtain around it.

However the crew had managed to improvise a few luxury touches, including a 'bar' rigged up in the middle of the cargo area to serve a lunchtime glass of wine.

Mr Key is used to the Hercules, having spent hours in it while visiting Iraq last year - a trip plagued by weather problems.

The old workhorses are scheduled for replacement in the Defence White Paper released this week.

- NZ Herald

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