The Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, has repeated his call for New Zealand to be removed from the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Australia reported over the weekend that Fiji’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Inoke Kubuobola, told Australian officials that either New Zealand or Australia should cease to be full members of the Pacific Islands Forum.
If this did not occur, the Fijian prime minister wanted close ally China to be brought into the 16-member forum.
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully said yesterday that New Zealand had no intention of leaving the forum.
Last week he emphasised the positive steps that New Zealand and Fiji were making in reforging closer ties.
The two countries collaborated on aid to Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. Last week, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules helped transport Fijian military engineers, doctors and supplies.
“This co-operation between New Zealand and Fiji is a positive development that reflects the steps we have been taking to re-engage with Fiji politically and militarily,” Mr McCully said at the time.
New Zealand reinstated its high commissioner in Suva following the Fijian elections, which came after eight years of military rule.
Fiji’s membership of the forum was suspended in May 2009 when it failed to hold elections, but it was reinstated last year.
The forum is the main inter-governmental body for co-operation between Pacific countries and its secretariat is based in Suva. It is made up of 14 small island states as well as Australia and New Zealand. Pacific Rim countries such as the US, China and Japan hold observer status within the forum.
After his election last year, Mr Bainimarama said Australia and New Zealand should have their status in the forum downgraded to observers or “development partners”.
If they did not leave the forum, he said, observing countries such as China should become full members. China provided support to Fiji during its eight-year coup.