Fiji, New Zealand sign agreement to boost defence ties

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New Zealand and Fiji have signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to further strengthen the defence relationship between both Pacific partners.

New Zealand Defence Minister Andrew Little and his Fiji counterpart, Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration Pio Tikoduadua, signed the agreement in Suva today and discussed a range of issues facing the region.

Tikoduadua said the agreement will provide a framework that will support both military forces in joint defence activities.

“Today we have signed another statement of intent that strengthens literally the relationship that we share from people to people and, of course, through our militaries, the exchanges that we have shared in the past as people follow common regions.”

We have the same interests in protecting our own people and reaching out to others in times of need,” said Tikoduadua.

“The SOFA is a legal framework for the New Zealand Defence Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces for closer cooperation within each other’s territories,” Little said.

“As nations of the Pacific, we face a number of significant security challenges. We know climate change will be one of the most significant challenges of our lifetime, and the need to work together to mitigate its effects, will only increase in the coming years.

“This agreement reflects the value New Zealand places on our relationship with Fiji and is important for our militaries to work together more effectively, including during our frequent exercises, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response cooperation,” Little said.

“New Zealand provided assistance to Fiji when Cyclone Winston, one of the most powerful cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere, left a trail of destruction, and Fiji provided vital support to New Zealand in response to Cyclone Gabrielle, one of the most extreme weather events in living memory.

“Today marks another milestone in our defence relationship, and I look forward to seeing our connections deepen, as we continue to work in partnership in our region, stronger together,” Little said.

A Statement of Intent was also signed outlining the priorities for defence cooperation between the two nations. The agreed priorities include training, maritime security and disaster and humanitarian response co-ordination.

SOURCE NZ GOVT/NZ GOVT/PACNEWS