Talks between John Key and Frank Bainimarama inch along

By Claire Trevett in Suva

Prime Minister John Key and Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo / Claire Trevett
Prime Minister John Key and Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo / Claire Trevett

Formal talks between Prime Minister John Key and Fiji's Frank Bainimarama appear to have inched along the relationship between Fiji and New Zealand rather than been the circuit-breaker Mr Key had hoped for.

Mr Key and Mr Bainimarama met in Suva this morning but afterward had little to announce beyond progress on a double tax agreement and agreeing to work together more on the Cyclone Winston recovery. Mr Key has also invited Mr Bainimarama to visit New Zealand. He reiterated his desire for Mr Bainimarama to fully participate in the Pacific Islands Forum again but there was no indication Mr Bainimarama had agreed to do so.

The night before, Mr Bainimarama had delivered a stinking rebuke at New Zealand's response to the coup and ongoing criticism of Fiji's Government over its actions in New Zealand.

Mr Bainimarama made it clear he had no intention of giving in to any of the requests Mr Key had advertised ahead of the meeting, including lifting a ban on some New Zealand media for their post-coup coverage of Fiji or agreeing to attend this year's Pacific Islands Forum conference.

Mr Key had hoped to restore the relationship to pre-coup levels. Although Mr Bainimarama spoke of "redefining" the relationship and the long friendship between the two countries, he said that would not happen unless New Zealand was willing to treat Fiji as an equal. He also signalled Fiji would not fully return to participating in the Pacific Islands Forum unless New Zealand and Australia stepped back from the forum so smaller states were more influential.

After the meeting, Mr Key and Mr Bainimarama exchanged gifts: a rugby ball signed by the All Blacks for Mr Bainimarama and a Fijian Sevens rugby jersey with Mr Key's name on the back for Mr Key. Mr Key quipped he did not want to get tackled by a Tongan rugby player before he left, a reference to the showdown between Fiji and Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup.

Mr Key will visit the HMNZS Otago at Suva, which is patrolling the Pacific for illegal fisheries. He will then visit Naiyala School, which the NZ Defence Force rebuilt after Cyclone Winston.

- NZ Herald

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