US and Australia drop sanctions against Fiji

AP News
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Posted: Oct 31, 2014 2:42 AM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The U.S. and Australia have removed sanctions against Fiji following democratic elections last month in the South Pacific nation.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Friday began a two-day visit to Fiji and announced that Australia had lifted all remaining sanctions, including the sale of weapons.

"My visit demonstrates the Australian government's commitment to taking our relationship with Fiji into a new era of partnership and prosperity," she said in a statement.

U.S. Ambassador to Fiji Frankie Reed said her government was lifting restrictions on financial assistance to the Fijian government. Reed said in a statement it was also exploring opportunities to resume engaging with Fiji's military, including in training exercises and in cooperating on issues of global concern.

"We appreciate the contributions that Fiji makes to international peace and security through its commitments to peacekeeping operations, as well as the central role that Fiji plays in contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Pacific region," Reed said.

Fiji's election last month was the first since military ruler Voreqe Bainimarama seized control of the island nation of 900,000 during a 2006 coup. Bainimarama's Fiji First party won a decisive victory at the polls.

The actions by Australia and the U.S. follow moves by other international groups to normalize their relations with Fiji.

In September after the election, the Commonwealth group of nations reinstated Fiji to full membership. And last week the Pacific Islands Forum, a political group of Pacific nations, lifted its suspension of Fiji.

Bishop said Australia was Fiji's largest trading partner and the biggest investor in Fiji. She said about 300,000 Australians visit Fiji each year and about 50,000 Fijians live and work in Australia. She said Australia had invited Fiji to join its seasonal workers program.