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Fiji Time: 1:42 AM on Friday 19 September

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Envoy lauds progress towards elections

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, October 11, 2012

AUSTRALIA acknowledges that progress has been made in the return of Fiji to democratic elections and a unified agreement to reappoint High Commissioners from Australia and New Zealand to the country was a positive move.

This, according to the acting Australian High Commissioner Glenn Miles.

Speaking at the University of the South Pacific's Faculty of Business and Economics Fiji Update 2012 in Nadi, Mr Miles said while progress towards democratic elections was lauded, there was room for improvement in some areas.

"The visit by the Ministerial Contact Group, of which our Prime Minister is a member, from the Pacific Islands Forum in May this year was an important marker," he said.

"The MCG met government officials, civil societies and other groups and identified that progress had been made in the march towards election and Fiji's transition towards democracy and they also acknowledged that further progress was needed. In particular, on freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of media.

"At that time, the government provided assurances to the MCG on these issues and Australia looks to the government to continue to meet those assurances," he said.

Mr Miles said one of the biggest steps towards improving relations was an agreement reached during a trilateral meeting in July in Sydney, Australia, between the foreign ministers from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.

"In late July at a trilateral meeting in Sydney, the PMs of Australia, NZ and Fiji agreed to the reappointment of High Commissioners and we see this as an important step in our bilateral relationship. Overall we see it as a very positive move. Australia and New Zealand have agreed on a more flexible approach to the implementation of travel sanctions.

"Overall despite our political differences, Australia's relationship with Fiji is based on a wide range of interactions. From business to sport, from family to tourism and they're all underpinned by our strong people to people links. And after all we are all Pacific neighbours," he said.


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