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Cablegate: New Zealand Pleased with Pif Meeting Outcomes

VZCZCXRO9763
OO RUEHPB
DE RUEHWL #0237/01 0790533
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 200533Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4047
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 4793
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY IMMEDIATE 0646
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA IMMEDIATE 0582
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000237

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/FO AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
OSD FOR ISD/JESSICA POWERS
PHNOM PENH FOR POL/MCKEAN
PACOM FOR JO1E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV NZ FJ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND PLEASED WITH PIF MEETING OUTCOMES

REF: A. PORT MORESBY 99
B. WELLINGTON 229

Classified By: Charge David J. Keegan,
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (C) Summary: The GNZ believes the March 16 Pacific Island Forum
(PIF) Foreign Ministers meeting offered Fiji's interim government clear
carrots and sticks for a return to democratic elections within 18-24
months, as recommended by the PIF Eminent Persons Group (EPG). New
Zealand was very pleased by the PIF Ministers' unity, which the GNZ say
was strengthened by the Ministers' negative reaction to FM Nailatikau's
denial of Fijian military human rights abuses. Australia and New
Zealand have offered significant financial and technical assistance to
Fiji if it agrees to accelerated elections, contingent on continued
cooperation from the GOF. PIC missions in Suva will work with the
interim Fiji Government to discuss what is needed to hold elections in
2008. This information will be fed back to the EPG, which will deliver
another report in three months. GNZ officials concede the Solomons, PNG
Tonga, and Somoa especially will need to keep unified pressure on
Bainimarama and others to convince the interim government to accept thi
approach. The GNZ also admits that it will be necessary to offer
Bainimarama an exit strategy, but says it is useless to explore this
until the GOF shows a willingness to sign onto the PIF's elections
roadmap. End Summary.

------------------------
Meeting Goes to ANZ Plan
------------------------

2. (C) Alan Williams, the Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs charged
with Pacific Island issues, told the Charge and PolCouns that the PIF
meeting was an "Australia-New Zealand diplomatic success story," that
laid out clear carrots and sticks for Fiji's return to democratic
elections as early as 2008. The GNZ was very pleased as well by the PIF
Foreign Ministers' unity in delivering a strong message to Fiji, as
before the meeting it had seemed that the Solomons and Tonga especially
would not come on board.

3. (C) In the end, neither Fiji nor the Solomons participated in the
drafting of the final communiqui, although they had been invited to do
so. New Zealand and Australia convinced the others to accept a number
of firm recommendations. When for example Tonga and Kiribati were
reluctant to "condemn" the coup, New Zealand persuaded them to agree to
reiterate the December EPG's original statement expressing "profound
concern" about the coup. Williams said that FMs Peters and Downer had
also engaged in crafty negotiating tactics to get the other Ministers t
support a relatively short time frame for Fiji's return to elections.
The FMs argued that because Fiji's constitution requires that any
changes to electoral districts be approved by elected Ministers, Fiji
should hold elections immediately. In reality, Peters and Downer made
this case so that the other Ministers would not split the difference
between the EPG's recommended 18-24 month time frame and the GOF's
claims that it will take 3-5 years before Fiji is ready to return to th
ballot box. The final statement affirmed "the EPG's recommendation tha
the interim government should commit to a firm timetable for national
elections...within 18 months and 2 years, if not sooner."

4. (C) As Williams describes it, Fiji's presentation to Ministers was
both conciliatory and recalcitrant. Interim FM Nailatikau started out
with an eloquent and plausible explanation of "Fiji's distinctive
approach to a return to democracy." Had he left it there, he may have
carried the day. But the interim FM soon lost whatever sympathy he'd
gained by delivering a second presentation message that included a
diatribe against Australia's alleged plans to invade Fiji and a complet
denial of any RFDF human rights abuses. Williams said he could tell
from the Ministers' body language that they were uncomfortable with thi
harder message. He added that Nailatikau's misstep probably increased
the Ministers' resolve to press the interim government for an early
return to democracy.

----------
Next Steps
----------

5. (C) Australia and New Zealand have offered significant financial
and technical assistance to Fiji if it agrees to accelerated elections.
Williams said New Zealand might even be willing to help with Fiji's
anti-corruption investigations. Any assistance will be staged so that

WELLINGTON 00000237 002 OF 002


it is contingent on continued cooperation from the GOF. The PIF
Ministers tasked ANZ and PIC missions in Suva to work with the interim
Fiji Government to discuss what is needed to hold elections in 2008.
This information will be fed back to the EPG, which will deliver anothe
report in three months. Williams said the GNZ will monitor the missions
progress weekly in order to gauge Fiji's response. NZ officials also
hope that additional pressure will be placed on the interim government
through the EU's review of its development assistance to Fiji under the
EU's Cotonou Agreement with former European colonies. The EU is set to
meet later this month with the interim government, and the review could
result in a permanent removal of European assistance to Fiji's sugar
producers if the GOF does not accede to return to democracy. According
to the GNZ, the EU will reportedly draw heavily on the EPG report in
making its determination.

6. (C) Williams said that the GNZ has pointed out to Fiji that the
timetables the interim government put in its own report to the PIF are
far longer than necessary, and many actions that the interim government
say must be sequential can in fact be carried out simultaneously. The
Fijian timetables raise the question of how much Bainimarama feels he
needs to delay elections for his own safety, said Williams, who admitte
that in the end Bainimarama will likely only agree to elections if he i
given immunity. But it's too early to discuss how this would happen.
Williams said the PIF needs to see which Fiji it is dealing with --
contrite or recalcitrant -- before deciding how to handle Bainimarama's
exit from the scene. While he was justifiably pleased with the results
of the meeting, Williams also conceded that Tonga, PNG, Samoa, and the
Solomons especially will need to maintain continued unity of purpose,
strong advocacy, and the right "tonality" to persuade Bainimarama and
other senior interim officials that they have many reasons to accept th
PIF electoral roadmap.

--------------------------------------
Including Fiji in Regional Discussions
--------------------------------------

7. (C) Williams reminded us that the GNZ sanctions allow bilateral
discussions with the interim government related to Fiji's return to
democracy. He said he and others in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and Trade were pushing for GNZ to allow GOF participation in regional
meetings covering topics of regional interest, such as fisheries, the
Pacific Plan, and energy issues. Australia is undergoing a similar
debate, said Williams, who added that the GNZ would be interested in
learning how we intend to handle Fiji's participation in the Pacific
Island Leaders Conference and other venues. We agreed to keep in touch
on this.
Keegan

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