New Zealand and Fiji reportedly poised to clash over sanctions
New Zealand and Fiji are poised for a clash over sanctions imposed on the South Pacific island state's military government that could see both countries expel diplomats, according to news reports on Monday.
Fiji strongman Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who seized power in a bloodless coup two years ago, demanded that New Zealand ease travel sanctions for his administration's officials and their families, television networks and Radio New Zealand reported.
The issue reportedly came to a head over Wellington's refusal to give a visa to the son of the official secretary to Fiji's President Josefa Iloilo, to resume university studies in New Zealand, reported dpa.
The reports said Fiji, which expelled New Zealand's senior diplomat in June last year, is preparing to throw out his successor, acting high commissioner Caroline McDonald, in retaliation.
If it does, New Zealand is virtually certain to expel Fiji's top man in Wellington, Ponsami Chetty.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully told Television New Zealand that Bainimarama had stressed his opposition to travel bans when he visited the Fiji capital Suva last week with a regional delegation checking Fiji's progress toward fresh elections.
"I'm not able to talk about individual cases but what I can say is that it is in the nature of sanctions of this sort that we have issues to deal with from time to time," McCully said. "And we have one or two of those at the moment."
In a reference to the desire of New Zealand, Australia, the European Union and the United States to see Fiji return to democracy, McCully said he made the point to Bainimarama that they were hoping "we would see conditions emerge in which we would be able to deal with those sanctions."