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Cablegate: Gnz Preps for Pacific Island Forum

VZCZCXRO6775
OO RUEHPB
DE RUEHWL #0229/01 0741842
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151842Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4037
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 4791
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY IMMEDIATE 0644
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA IMMEDIATE 0580

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000229

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/FO AND EAP/ANP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV NZ XV FJ
SUBJECT: GNZ PREPS FOR PACIFIC ISLAND FORUM

REF: SUVA 155

Classified By: Acting DCM Katherine B. Hadda,
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: The March 15 PIF Foreign Ministers meeting
will have a limited role for Fiji, in part to ensure that
interim PM Bainimarama cannot complain that members acted
behind Fiji's back. The GNZ believes the outlook is good for
PIF ministers to agree that Fiji should abide by the EPG
report, but that it is doubtful that Fiji will agree. Oddly,
PM Bainimarama recently wrote to PM Clark to complain that
New Zealand had convinced other countries to pressure his
government. End Summary.

2. (C) Heather Riddell, Director for Pacific Affairs at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), told PolEcon
Couns that the format for the March 16 Pacific Island Forum
(PIF) Foreign Ministers meeting in Port Vila will include a
role for Fiji's interim government. Fiji's Interim Foreign
Minister will be present Fiji's remarks on the Eminent
Persons Group (EPG) Report, and the Interim Attorney General
will be given opportunity to explain why the Interim
Government maintains it will not be possible for Fiji to hold
elections within the next three years. The Fiji
representatives will then withdraw from the meeting, leaving
the PIF Foreign Ministers to decide what to do next. The
Ministers will then report their common views back to the
Fiji reps.

3. (C) Riddell admitted the format is unusual and carries
some risk of an unpredictable outcome, but says it will
prevent the interim Fiji Government from claiming that its
fate is being decided behind its back. That being said, the
GNZ does not have great hopes that Fiji will agree to the
findings of the rest of the group. The only possibility of
reaching consensus with Fiji at the meeting would be if the
interim FM agreed to elections within the 18-24 month
timeframe set out in the EPG report. Riddell views this as
unlikely, however, as according to NZ's High Commission in
Suva, the interim Government does not feel pressured to
accept a faster time line. For its part, the GNZ views even
18-24 months as too long, but is willing to consider with
other PIF members a packet of election assistance to help
persuade Fiji to accept it. Even if rejected, offering the
package would weaken Fiji's claims that it does not have the
resources to hold elections within three years.

4. (C) Despite the likelihood that Fiji will not accept the
EPG findings, the GNZ feels the probable dynamic at the
meeting will be favorable for consensus among other PIF
members, especially as Melanesian Spearhead Group members
reportedly still feel irritated with Bainimarama. The trick
will be to ensure that Australia and New Zealand don't drive
the meeting so hard that the PICs feel pressured, as this
could drive them into being more sympathetic to the Interim
Government.

5. (C) The GNZ believes the other key ingredient for success
at the meeting will be a carefully crafted official
communique. Whereas normally such reports are the product of
consensus, Riddell says that because it is unlikely that Fiji
will agree with the other members, reaching complete
agreement would require watering down the report's language
to the lowest common denominator. The GNZ will therefore
push for "consensus minus one," allowing Fiji to include an
opposing viewpoint in the communique.

6. (C) Regarding next steps, Riddell believes it unlikely
that the PIF will impose sanctions on Fiji, and that this is
just as well because it would be too divisive for the PICs.
Unlike the Commonwealth, the PIF has no mechanism to formally
suspend members. Riddell therefore believes the PIF
Ministers will need to provide guidance on Fiji's
participation in regional meetings. The question is unlikely
to be formally decided on at the March 16 meeting, however,
but will probably be tasked for the Secretariat to coordinate
with PIF members. Assuming Fiji fails to accept the findings
of the rest of the group, Riddell says there may be room for
non-PIF members, notably the EU, to consider additional
measures to pressure the interim government.

7. (C) Riddell also told PolEcon Couns that FM Peters has
not been in touch with Bainimarama recently despite their
formerly close relationship. But, oddly, Bainimarama
recently wrote to PM Clark. He complained not about the
actions her government has taken in response to the Fiji coup
but that the GNZ had convinced other governments to take
similar measures.

WELLINGTON 00000229 002 OF 002


Keegan

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