Vanuatu calls Fiji ‘recalcitrant’ over disputed islands

(Pacnews) Vanuatu is ready to meet with Fiji to discuss a long standing maritime border treaty agreement that Fiji signed with France just after Vanuatu gained independence in 1980.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ralph Regenvanu claims Fiji made a deal with France in 1983 over Vanuatu’s exclusive economic zone.

“They did that after we became independent behind our backs so we need to sort that out, Minister Regenvanu told PACNEWS in Funafuti last week.

He said the two governments have been exchanging letters and discussing the matter, and that it’s a big agenda for Vanuatu.

“I’ve met Fiji’s Attorney General and the Foreign Affairs minister. But we are still yet to meet Prime Minister [Voreqe] Bainimarama about it. We have exchanged letters and agreed that we need to talk about it and we are trying to set up a time to meet in the next month, said Minister Regenvanu.

The Fiji-France Maritime Delimitation agreement signed in 1983 is a treaty between France and Fiji which establishes maritime boundary between Fiji and New Caledonia and the boundary between Fiji and Wallis and Futuna. The treaty was signed in Suva in January 1983 and states that the boundaries will be set by the principles of setting equidistant line between the territories.

For purposes of drawing the border, the treaty assumes that France has sovereignty over the Matthew and Hunter Islands, but that is still being negotiated between Vanuatu and France.

Minister Regenvanu said Vanuatu is happy that France has agreed to come to the table to discuss the Matthew and Hunter Islands.These negotiations resumed in Brussels in June this year.

“The country that has been recalcitrant that’s refused to come to the table is Fiji. We tried to meet with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama here but he didn’t want to meet with us. We hope that Fiji will be more co-operative not only on maritime boundaries but upper air service management and air service agreement.

“Our upper air service is managed out of Fiji. A number of countries – Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu – all the countries under that area are not happy with the upper air space management. Unfortunately it’s hard to get to the table to talk about it but as you will recall a number of countries that were under that pulled out and went to Australia and NZ. Those of us that are left under this regime are not really happy about and would like to discuss and talk about it and find a way forward that is more equitable for us, Minister Regenvanu said…..PACNEWS