Australia Begins Normalizing Relations With Fiji Following Election

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Restoration of Defence Cooperation Program underway

By Serafina Silaitoga And Luke Rawalai

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 30, 2014) – Australia has already started to restore its extensive Defence Cooperation Program with Fiji following the 2014 elections.

Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed in an email on Sunday that the only remaining restrictions in place against Fiji were defence exports and military co-operation.

"I have said previously that Australia would move to restore a full and extensive Defence Cooperation Program with Fiji following elections, and these steps are already underway," she said.

"Even though these restrictions remained in place up to the election, I have personally endorsed any request for assistance to the RFMF received since February.

"I have also proactively ensured that Fiji was provided with Australian intelligence and other co-operation in the international efforts to secure the release of the 45 Fijian UNDOF personnel who were captured in the Golan Heights."

Ms Bishop added that a post-election visit would continue the positive momentum in bilateral relations.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Times reported that ‘Australia has applauded Fiji's decision to join the New Colombo Plan. ... The plan offers Australian undergraduate university students grants and scholarships to study at universities in the Indo Pacific region. ... Responding to questions sent to her office, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her government continued to work closely with the Fiji Government including high-level visits, practical co-operation between the two public sectors and their strong support for Fiji's election.]

"I am also looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama again following our 24 August meeting during his private visit to Australia," she said.

"Australia looks forward to including Fiji in any expansion of the Seasonal Workers Program. The Australian Government is committed to normalising our relationship with Fiji.

"Australia's decision to lift travel sanctions, the expansion in our political and public sector engagement and our significant support for the elections and the Multinational Observer Group are key elements of this policy."

Military Commander Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga said he had not received any letter from the Australian Government regarding this issue so he would not comment.

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