WikiLeaks cable: GNZ preps for Pacific Island Forum

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

March 15, 2007
GNZ preps for Pacific Island Forum

date:2007-03-15T18:42:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:07WELLINGTON229
destination:VZCZCXRO6775 OO RUEHPB DE RUEHWL #0229/01 0741842 ZNY
CCCCC ZZH O 151842Z MAR 07 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4037 INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 4791
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY IMMEDIATE 0644 RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA
IMMEDIATE 0580
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:07SUVA155|07WELLINGTON229
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000229

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/FO AND EAP/ANP
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2017...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000229

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/FO AND EAP/ANP
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2017
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, NZ, XV, FJ
SUBJECT: GNZ PREPS FOR PACIFIC ISLAND FORUM
REF: SUVA 155

Classified By: Acting DCM Katherine B. Hadda, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: The March 15 PIF Foreign Ministers meeting will have a limited role for Fiji, in part to ensure that interim PM Bainimarama cannot complain that members acted behind Fiji's back. The GNZ believes the outlook is good for PIF ministers to agree that Fiji should abide by the EPG report, but that it is doubtful that Fiji will agree. Oddly, PM Bainimarama recently wrote to PM Clark to complain that New Zealand had convinced other countries to pressure his government. End Summary.

2. (C) Heather Riddell, Director for Pacific Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), told PolEcon Couns that the format for the March 16 Pacific Island Forum (PIF) Foreign Ministers meeting in Port Vila will include a role for Fiji's interim government. Fiji's Interim Foreign Minister will be present Fiji's remarks on the Eminent
Persons Group (EPG) Report, and the Interim Attorney General will be given opportunity to explain why the Interim Government maintains it will not be possible for Fiji to hold elections within the next three years. The Fiji representatives will then withdraw from the meeting, leaving the PIF Foreign Ministers to decide what to do next. The Ministers will then report their common views back to the Fiji reps.

3. (C) Riddell admitted the format is unusual and carries some risk of an unpredictable outcome, but says it will prevent the interim Fiji Government from claiming that its fate is being decided behind its back. That being said, the GNZ does not have great hopes that Fiji will agree to the findings of the rest of the group. The only possibility of reaching consensus with Fiji at the meeting would be if the interim FM agreed to elections within the 18-24 month timeframe set out in the EPG report. Riddell views this as unlikely, however, as according to NZ's High Commission in Suva, the interim Government does not feel pressured to accept a faster time line. For its part, the GNZ views even 18-24 months as too long, but is willing to consider with other PIF members a packet of election assistance to help persuade Fiji to accept it. Even if rejected, offering the package would weaken Fiji's claims that it does not have the resources to hold elections within three years.

4. (C) Despite the likelihood that Fiji will not accept the EPG findings, the GNZ feels the probable dynamic at the meeting will be favorable for consensus among other PIF members, especially as Melanesian Spearhead Group members reportedly still feel irritated with Bainimarama. The trick will be to ensure that Australia and New Zealand don't drive the meeting so hard that the PICs feel pressured, as this could drive them into being more sympathetic to the Interim Government.

5. (C) The GNZ believes the other key ingredient for success at the meeting will be a carefully crafted official communique. Whereas normally such reports are the product of consensus, Riddell says that because it is unlikely that Fiji will agree with the other members, reaching complete agreement would require watering down the report's language to the lowest common denominator. The GNZ will therefore push for "consensus minus one," allowing Fiji to include an opposing viewpoint in the communique.

6. (C) Regarding next steps, Riddell believes it unlikely that the PIF will impose sanctions on Fiji, and that this is just as well because it would be too divisive for the PICs. Unlike the Commonwealth, the PIF has no mechanism to formally suspend members. Riddell therefore believes the PIF Ministers will need to provide guidance on Fiji's participation in regional meetings. The question is unlikely to be formally decided on at the March 16 meeting, however, but will probably be tasked for the Secretariat to coordinate with PIF members. Assuming Fiji fails to accept the findings of the rest of the group, Riddell says there may be room for non-PIF members, notably the EU, to consider additional measures to pressure the interim government.

7. (C) Riddell also told PolEcon Couns that FM Peters has not been in touch with Bainimarama recently despite their formerly close relationship. But, oddly, Bainimarama recently wrote to PM Clark. He complained not about the actions her government has taken in response to the Fiji coup but that the GNZ had convinced other governments to take similar measures.

Keegan

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