The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

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Media Release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
FA153 /  5 October 2001 

Sanctions Against Fiji are Lifted

The Government has today lifted the bilateral sanctions imposed in July 2000 against Fiji in response to the overthrow of the democratically-elected government.

The sanctions were imposed to encourage Fiji to an early return to democracy.  Fiji has made clear progress.  It has recently held elections, with observer missions from the United Nations and the Commonwealth reporting that the results reflect the will of the people.  The elected members and a new government have been sworn-in, and the Parliament reconvened on 2 October.

I am aware that there is a dispute over the constitutionality of the formation of the new government.  It is not Australia's role to judge this dispute: this is a matter for Fiji to settle in accordance with the proper procedures established under its legal system.  A process to resolve this dispute is underway, with the Government and the Fiji Labour Party working together to formulate questions to be considered by the Fiji Court of Appeal later this month.  Importantly, Fiji's Prime Minister, Mr Qarase, has publicly committed to abide by the  ruling of the courts on this issue. 

The lifting of bilateral sanctions means that we will resume providing a comprehensive program of development assistance to the people of Fiji.  In particular, the Government will, in consultation with the new government of Fiji, provide $1 million for short-term health and education service delivery in such areas as primary health and nutrition programs and resources for rural schools.  We will also recommence training activities, including scholarships and the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development Program.  We will also propose a Civil Society Support Program to provide more opportunities for civil society to be productively engaged with government.

The Defence Cooperation Program will be resumed.  This will include holding defence cooperation talks at a mutually agreed time and inviting the Fiji military forces to nominate staff for Australian defence force courses. Cooperation under the Australia-Fiji Trade and Economic Relations Agreement (AFTERA), a framework agreement promoting two-way trade, economic relations and investment between the two countries will also recommence.

Restrictions on Fiji national sporting teams playing in Australia will be removed allowing teams from Fiji to participate in the Asia/Pacific Bowls Championships, the South Pacific Mini Games, and other sporting events being organised in Australia over the coming months.

I congratulate the people of Fiji for the peaceful way in which democracy has been restored.  Australia looks forward to rebuilding closer links between our two countries on the basis of a shared commitment to democratic values and the rule of law.

Media Inquiries:  Matt Francis (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500, Lyndall Sachs (Departmental) 02 6261 2912

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