A thaw with Fiji

The Dom-Post reports:

New Zealand’s influence in the Pacific region country had been “chiselled away” to the point that “the viability of our operations was under threat”, Mr McCully said yesterday.

The two countries had agreed to post a new diplomatic counsellor in each other’s respective capitals. Deputy heads of mission would be added later.

“We’d got to a point where our viability was under some threat. This will give us the ability to conduct closer to a normal range of activities,” Mr McCully said.

Neither country has top level representation in place after a third New Zealand high commissioner was deported from Suva in November last year and Wellington followed suit, sacking ’s representative here.

New Zealand representation in Suva has dwindled to an acting head of mission, two immigration officials and two NZ Aid officials.

The small staff had put “a huge limit” on what New Zealand could do in Fiji and compromised its historical position as a regional hub for the Pacific, Mr McCully said. …

The new appointments did not signal a change to New Zealand’s substantive policy on Fiji, including continuing sanctions.

“But it does signal the determination to improve the relationship and in particular to be able to agree to disagree about some things,” Mr McCully said.

Agreeing to disagree is always important.

This is a productive step forward. I’m not sure whether it will last, as my reading of the situation is that when one of the Commodore’s appointees comes up against the Australia and NZ travel bans, he has a temper tantrum and starts expelling people.

But the Commodore is the person in charge there for now. He has given himself a ridiculously long time-frame of 2014 before he calls elections. The one good thing about such a ridiculously long period of time, is that if he then refuses to stick to the 2014 schedule, it will be proof that he never plans to surrender power.

What many are now looking for is actual progress towards those elections. Detailing of a process for adopting a new constitution. A timetable for the census etc.

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