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Fiji Time: 10:35 PM on Friday 18 April

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Firm stand

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, December 13, 2013

THE Fiji Government says it stands by earlier statements that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat failed in its obligations to carry out the decisions of PACP member states.

This comes after it withdrew from Tuesday's Economic Partnership Agreement discussions in Honiara, saying the Forum Secretariat was not transparent in the manner it organised and conducted the special EPA-related meetings in the Solomon Islands this week.

Yesterday the Forum released a statement saying Fiji's withdrawal from the EPA related meetings in Honiara was "an extraordinary display of unwarranted and un-Pacific behaviour".

It also said following the impasse of initial EPA talks in Brussels, the EU trade commissioner's proposal to meet with the PACP countries in Honiara was circulated to all PACPs via an official circular.

And that no objection was made by any country including Fiji.

But the government said after PNG's withdrawal caused the cancellation of the Brussels talks, Fiji called for the PACP countries to meet in Fiji, a fact not reflected in the forum circular.

"The secretariat's circular makes no mention of the proposed meeting in Fiji with PNG in attendance," Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said.

"Instead, in direct contravention to the ministers' decision, the secretariat organised a special meeting between PACP ministers and the EU Trade Commissioner in Solomon Islands with only three days scheduled for preparatory sessions with officials and ministers beforehand."

He said Fiji voiced objections to the Honiara talks in a letter sent to the Tongan Minister for Commerce and lead PACP spokesman Dr Viliami Latu.

"Contrary to the statement released by the secretariat to the media, Fiji — a country with one of the biggest stakes in the EPA negotiations — lodged a clear objection to this schedule of meetings in a letter dated the 8th of November to the Tongan Minister for Commerce and Lead PACP spokesperson, Dr Viliami Latu, copied to all PACP Ministers and the secretariat," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

The letter provided by the government states Fiji's objections based on the amount of time given for the discussions in Honiara.

"The proposed schedule of meetings in Solomon Islands makes it extremely difficult to arrive at a consensus based position given the short notice and unavailability of some Pacific ACP States," the letter says.

It goes on to say that: "In addition, in view of the developments in Brussels, ample amount of time is required to address the large number of outstanding and contentious issues."

The government said its worst fears were realised when only seven countries — Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and Solomon Island — were represented at ministerial level in Honiara.

"Fiji stands by its earlier statement that the secretariat has failed in its obligation to carry out the decisions of the PACP member states," it said.

"It has demonstrated a clear lack of transparency and propriety in the manner in which it organised and conducted the special EPA-related meetings in Solomon Islands this week."