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Cablegate: Pif Ministerial Meeting On Fiji

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PP RUEHAP RUEHKN RUEHKR RUEHMJ RUEHNZ RUEHPB
DE RUEHWL #0114/01 0880200
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 280200Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5164
INFO RUEHAP/AMEMBASSY APIA 0455
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 5152
RUEHKN/AMEMBASSY KOLONIA 0017
RUEHKR/AMEMBASSY KOROR 0006
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0195
RUEHMJ/AMEMBASSY MAJURO 0119
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0322
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0733
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0730
RUEHNZ/AMCONSUL AUCKLAND 1644
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0125
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 WELLINGTON 000114

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL FJ UN NZ XV
SUBJECT: PIF MINISTERIAL MEETING ON FIJI

REF: STATE 30331

1. (SBU) Summary. On March 26, Pacific Island Forum (PIF)
Foreign Ministers met in Auckland to review the situation in
Fiji, in particular to assess progress by the Interim
Government (IG) towards meeting the commitments made by
Commodore Bainimarama to PIF leaders in Tonga in October
2007. In an outcome document, PIF officials were united in
outlining their strong concerns about the IG's degree of
progress towards the holding of elections in the first
quarter of 2009, human rights issues surrounding the media
and the judiciary that may impinge on the environment
necessary for free and fair elections, and the continued IG
focus on the People's Charter process, which PIF Ministers
worry may divert focus from election preparations. Fiji
Interim Foreign Minister Nailatikau, head of the IG
delegation, criticized visa sanctions, emphasized the
importance of the People's Charter to national reconciliation
and the election process, and blamed the international
community for the lack of progress to date. Commonwealth
representative Sir Paul Reeves briefed the ministers on his
effort to encourage political dialogue. Reeves intends to
visit Suva again in late April. The ministers agreed
unanimously to augment the monitoring of the Fiji situation
via a Ministerial Contact Group. Nailatikau promised an IG
timetable for elections by mid-April. End Summary.

Auckland PIF Ministerial Keeps Pressure on Fiji IG
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) When Pacific Island Forum leaders met in Tonga in
October 2007, they instructed PIF Foreign Ministers to meet
early in 2008 to review progress by the IG towards Commodore
Bainimarama's promise of a free and fair parliamentary
election in the first quarter of 2009. The March 26
ministerial in Auckland considered a report by the PIF-Fiji
Joint Working Group and a presentation by interim Foreign
Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Nailatikau complained
bitterly about visa sanctions, specifically mentioning "the
U.S., Australia, and New Zealand." He reaffirmed the IG's
election commitment, but also emphasized the IG view that the
People's Charter process is an essential pre-election step
for Fiji's future. It will be a "strategic framework" for
future governments and is the military's "exit strategy."
Several Pacific Island Country (PIC) representatives queried
Nailatikau about a seeming contradiction between the
"commitment" to elections and the People's Charter. They
also inquired about human-rights problems. Nailatikau
reportedly stuck closely to the standard IG brief.
Thereafter, the IG delegation was asked to leave the room.
(Note: We hear the IG tried hard the night before to be
allowed to stay in place throughout, but PIF ministers,
citing Tonga as precedent, said "no." End Note.)

3. (SBU) In subsequent discussion, Australia and New Zealand
raised their well-known concerns about the state of affairs
in Fiji; and a good number of Island ministers, including
those from PNG, Solomon Islands, Niue, Samoa, and the Cooks,
reportedly also raised serious worries about the IG's
approach to governance and its half-hearted efforts to
prepare for free and fair elections. Several, including
Samoa, praised the visa sanctions imposed by Australia, New
Zealand, the U.S., and others as helping focus the IG on
important issues. PNG proposed, and ministers approved,
setting up a Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) to take
monitoring of IG electoral preparations to a higher level in
the lead-up to the next PIF leaders meeting in Niue in
August. Contact Group minister members will be Australia,
New Zealand, PNG, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu. Reportedly, the
MCG came about because ministers saw a need for more clout
than the PIF-Fiji Working Group could provide, but the IG and
some other PIC governments had objections to resuscitating
last year's Eminent Persons Group.


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4. (SBU) In their deliberations, ministers judged the draft
outcomes document as "too soft" on the IG and ordered the
toughening of language throughout. The final document,
agreed to unanimously, outlines the PIF's strong view that
the IG is expected to fulfill Bainimarama's election promises
in Tonga. (The Commodore promised that all parties will be
allowed to compete under the current constitution's rules in
free and fair polls and that the military will respect the
outcome.) The document expresses concern about election
preparations to date as well as about human rights
developments that could undermine conditions necessary for a
free and fair electoral process. It welcomes the IG's
promise to provide a timetable for elections by the end of
the second week in April as well as the announcement that an
elections supervisor will be appointed shortly. Finally, it
announces the Ministerial Contact Group and expresses
appreciation for a parallel effort by Sir Paul Reeves to
facilitate dialogue.

Commonwealth/Reeves Effort for Political Dialogue
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (SBU) During the Ministerial, Sir Paul Reeves was invited
to brief delegations on his effort, at Commonwealth urging,
to foster a political dialogue in Fiji among the leading
political players from all sides. The decision of
Bainimarama and interim Finance Minister Chaudhry not to
participate in a group meeting when Reeves visited Suva in
early March was disappointing; but Reeves received a letter
from Bainimarama early on March 26 inviting a follow-on visit
and expressing appreciation for the conversations that had
occurred. In that light, Reeves intends to return to Suva in
late April to try again to bring the parties together for
talk. (Note: We heard from several well-placed sources at
the Auckland meeting that it was Chaudhry and interim
Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum who discouraged Bainimarama
from participating in the Reeves dialogue in March. Those
sources of pressure, and Bainimarama's own unwillingness to
engage deposed PM Qarase face-to-face, could still impede
dialogue, but Reeves told us he is willing to give his effort
at least one more shot. End Note.)

Australia, New Zealand, Other PICs Pleased with Outcome
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) The PIF did not permit non-PIF members to sit in on
the meeting, but USG officials spoke with a number of
participants before and after to make USG views clear and to
solicit comments on the state of play. Australian Foreign
Minister Smith, attending his first PIF meeting on Fiji, told
us he was very satisfied with the way the region continued to
stand firm on the need for proper elections, without
interference from the People's Charter process. He sees the
Ministerial Contact Group essentially as a contingency
mechanism to be invoked as necessary to keep pressure on and
to ensure leaders at the PIF meeting in Niue are fully
informed. New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
(MFAT) officials said the results were as good they could
have hoped for, and FM Peters was happy. They said it was
clear before the meeting that PIC governments were not
pleased with Fiji, and ministers made that clear both when
the IG delegation was in the room and even more so
afterwards. The IG could not easily conclude that the
process was being driven by New Zealand and Australia. We
heard from several PIF delegations similar expressions of
satisfaction with the continued PIF unity of concern and of
purpose.

7. (SBU) The Tonga, Niue, PNG, Australia and New Zealand
Foreign Ministers held a post-meeting press conference. They
stressed that the region is expecting the IG to fulfill
Bainimarama's promises in Tonga, and the PIF will be
optimistic about IG intentions unless otherwise warranted.
That said, ministers noted skepticism -- particularly

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surrounding the IG emphasis on the People's Charter process
-- that only the Fiji IG can overcome by living up to its
commitments to the international community. The Ministerial
Contact Group is to help monitor IG progress and promote
constructive and productive dialogue. Smith noted that a MCG
visit to Fiji may not be necessary if the IG makes sufficient
progress on its own, pre-Niue. He offered that, in the first
instance, the FMs will encourage the Reeves effort. Niue PM
Vivian Young said that the Ministerial Contact Group would
raise the level of dialogue with IG authorities, bumping it
up from the working level.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The PIF Ministers fulfilled their mission
admirably. They, and not just Australia and New Zealand,
made clear they continue to expect the IG to move
expeditiously with a timetable to fulfill its commitment to
facilitate acceptable elections by March 2009. The unified
PIF message to the IG delegation in Auckland was impressive,
and it seemed clearly to have affected Nailatikau and his
delegation. When they departed the meeting, all
IG-delegation faces, including Nailatikau's, looked somber
and subdued, and they declined to do a media conference. The
IG undoubtedly hoped to hear expressions of understanding.
That didn't happen. Instead, they faced a solid front of PIF
delegations that were not inclined to give the IG the benefit
of the doubt and who were pressing the same themes the USG
has been pressing.
MCCORMICK

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