Bishop leads new push on Fiji

Fiji's transition back to democracy was high on the agenda when Julie Bishop met her NZ counterpart. (AAP)

Fiji's troubled transition back to democracy was high on the agenda when Julie Bishop met her New Zealand counterpart on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is leading a new push to bring Fiji in from the diplomatic cold and get bilateral relations back on track.

The Pacific island nation was high on the agenda when Ms Bishop held talks with New Zealand counterpart Murray McCully in Auckland on Wednesday.

"Our collective position, our joint position, is that we want to see a normalising of relations as soon as possible," Ms Bishop said after the meeting.

Ms Bishop has long argued that Australia should seek to re-engage with Frank Bainimarama's military-led regime, rather than seek to isolate it further.

While she wants to see Fiji hold credible elections as soon as possible, she has also signalled she would be willing to make concessions to encourage the transition back to democracy.

"We're very keen to identify the date of the proposed elections. Once we can establish when the elections will be held there are many things that we can offer," she said.

Fiji has pledged to hold elections by September 2014 but is yet to name a date.

AAP understands a further relaxing of Australia's sanctions could be on the table if Fiji makes progress in the coming months. New Zealand further relaxed its sanctions last month.

Ms Bishop met with Fijian Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering in New York last week and is understood to be in regular contact with him.

She's also keen to see the two countries exchange senior envoys for the first time in four years.

The two nations agreed last year to exchange high commissioners, signalling a thaw in a relationship that has been frosty since military strongman Frank Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup.

The Gillard government last year appointed respected career diplomat Margaret Twomey to the role, and hoped she would begin in February.

Fiji initially agreed to the appointment but subsequently refused to let her into the country, effectively ending the new era in diplomatic relations before it began.

Ms Bishop has confirmed she still wants Ms Twomey, a senior officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who served most recently as Australia's ambassador to Russia, to fill the position.

Fiji kicked out Australia's last high commissioner, James Batley, in 2009, accusing him of meddling in local politics.

Source AAP

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch