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Officials discussed prospect last week

By Samantha Rina SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 15, 2010) - LOCALS working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Fiji's rugby status have been identified as beneficiaries of plans to establish an air services agreement with the UAE.

The UAE Foreign Minister was in the country last week to discuss air links.

Civil Aviation director Akuila Waradi said the Look North policy was at the centre of the aviation expansion strategy.

He said the expansion strategy was aimed at opening up opportunities for trade and tourism for Fiji with lucrative markets in developed economies to the north.

He said any air services pact would benefit Fiji nationals working in the UAE and create exposure for Fiji rugby.

"Expatriate Fijians working and residing in the UAE, in particular in Dubai, will also greatly benefit from a direct Fiji/UAE (Dubai) air service," Mr. Waradi said.

"The UAE has a population of 2.6 million with Dubai city alone comprising a population of 1.241 million."

Fiji, he said, had a big expatriate population serving in international peacekeeping duties and peacemaking roles in Europe and the Middle East, and the proposed air service by the UAE would greatly facilitate movements.

Mr. Waradi said successful talks would also mean further exposure for Fiji as a leading rugby sevens nation.

The UAE had approached Fiji in May last year seeking the establishment of an air services agreement.

"As in any bilateral talks involving air services, the involvement of our national airline Air Pacific, the Office of the Solicitor General and other stakeholders is crucial," said Mr. Waradi.

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