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Key first PM to visit Fiji in a decade

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 30/05/2016

John Key will be the first New Zealand prime minister in a decade to visit Fiji when he heads to the capital Suva next week.

The relationship between New Zealand and Fiji broke down in 2006, when then-military leader, now-prime minister, Frank Bainimarama seized power.

But since Fiji's 2014 election, won by Mr Bainimarama, diplomatic and political relations between the two countries have steadily resumed.

Mr Key said it's the "right time" to visit.

"It's ancient history now New Zealand's concerns about the military coup," he told reporters on Monday.

"We always said once they got to the point of having free and fair elections, we would normalise the relationship."

While in Suva, Mr Key will meet with Mr Bainimarama and a range of issues will be up for discussion, including Fiji's recovery following tropical cyclone Winston.

Mr Key will get a chance to see some of the reconstruction work carried out by the New Zealand defence force as part of the relief effort.

Total New Zealand aid to Fiji following the cyclone was more than $15 million and it was one of the country's largest ever peacetime troop deployments.

"New Zealand was proud to stand alongside its neighbour in a time of need and our relationship is now stronger as a result," Mr Key said. Foreign Minister Murray McCully made his first visit to Fiji since the elections earlier this year.

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