KEY HERE next month?

Leader’s visit will be the first by a New Zealand prime min­is­ter since 2006

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - JY­OTI PRATIBHA Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter John Key is ex­pected to make an of­fi­cial to Fiji next month. Mr Key will be in the coun­try for a two-day visit -- on June 9-10, an in­formed Gov­ern­ment source said. A plan­ning com­mit­tee is un­der­stood to be work­ing on the visit. Mr Key is due to meet Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama.

This will be a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward in the re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries. No NZ prime min­is­ter has made an of­fi­cial visit to Fiji since 2006.

Mr Key’s visit will be a fol­low-up to his For­eign Min­is­ter Mur­ray McCully who vis­ited Fiji in Fe­bru­ary in the wake of Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston. In NZ, Mr Key had sig­nalled more aid may be in the pipe­line for Fiji af­ter pledg­ing NZ $3.2mil­lion (F$4.58m) in­clud­ing de­fence force as­sets and per­son­nel.

Diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween New Zealand and Fiji soured af­ter the 2006 takeover. Aus­tralia and NZ de­serted Fiji and were in­stru­men­tal in Fiji be­ing sus­pended from Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum.

But the re­la­tions were re­stored af­ter Mr Bain­i­marama’s Fi­jiFirst party won the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion.

How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion was com­pli­cated when Mr Bain­i­marama did not at­tend the Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum meet­ing in Port Moresby early Septem­ber last year. Mr Bain­i­marama ob­jected to Aus­tralia and New Zealand’s “un­due in­flu­ence” and said he would not at­tend the Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum un­til the two coun­tries be­came de­vel­op­ment part­ners rather than full mem­bers. He said he be­lieved Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum no longer served the best in­ter­ests of Pa­cific is­lands. A few weeks later, on Septem­ber 30, Mr Key and Mr Bain­i­marama posed to­gether for a photo in New York. Af­ter a quick chat about rugby, the two lead­ers with­drew to a pri­vate room to con­tinue their meet­ing. Their talks fo­cused on Fiji’s role in the Pa­cific and a like­li­hood of a top-level visit by Mr Key. Next month’s visit would be the ic­ing on the cake for the re­stored re­la­tions.

Prime Min­is­ter John Key.

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