Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 14:04 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 14:04 | SYDNEY

NZ points way with rugby diplomacy


Jenny Hayward-Jones


22 February 2010 11:49

I have been sceptical that New Zealand's diplomatic outreach to Fiji would bear much fruit, but I was proven wrong on the weekend. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola agreed on the nomination of respective acting heads of mission and that they would maintain their dialogue, with an agreement to meet again in May.

New Zealand diverted Fiji from its provocative nomination of interim Government spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni as Fiji's Counsellor in its New Zealand mission. The more conventional nomination of Mere Tora has been accepted. This shows the Fiji Foreign Minister's commitment to negotiation over maintaining a stand-off as a means of resolving a dispute.

Even more interesting was the announcement that McCully had accepted a proposal to meet Commodore Bainimarama during the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens at the end of March. It is not the first time sport has been invoked as a tool to soothe diplomatic tensions. If there is one thing Fiji and New Zealand have in common, it is their love of rugby. The meeting may just be a courtesy but is at least a crack in the impasse, and it may lead to something more. 

Canberra may be willing to see Wellington take the lead here, but it should be careful not to be left behind. It is just as much in Australia's interests as it is in New Zealand's to be demonstrating a commitment to the future of Fiji.

Photo by Flickr user cx1uk, used under a Creative Commons license.