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Fiji state visit may help bridge troubled waters
4:43 pm GMT+12, 09/09/2019, Australia

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Baini­marama will arrive in Australia for a state visit on Thursday, less than a month after accusing Scott Morrison of “very insulting and condescending” behaviour at the Pacific Island Forum in Tuvalu.
 
The former coup leader is due to meet the Prime Minister for bilateral talks next Monday, but Australian and Fijian officials were tight-lipped this week over his five-day programme.
 
Morrison has been working hard to improve Australia’s relationships with Pacific neighbours, hosting Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and a 30-plus delegation of ministers and officials in July.
 
His “Pacific step-up” suffered a temporary setback in Tuvalu, when he rejected calls by regional leaders for a statement calling for a ban on new coalmines and coal-fired power plants.
 
Bainimarama was one of Australia’s strongest critics at the Forum, citing “chequebook diplomacy” after Morrison emphasised Australia’s financial commit­ments to the Pacific.
 
He compared Australia’s behaviour unfavourably with that of China, which announced its own Pacific step-up at the forum and talked up its commitment to dealing with climate change.
 
He also blasted Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who said island nations affected by climate change would continue to survive by picking Australian fruit.

SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN/PACNEWS


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