Foreign Minister Murray McCully had talks on Thursday in Canberra with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith and Fiji's Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola.
Those talks lasted about 1-1/2 hours and Mr McCully and the Fiji minister then met for the same period again in the evening.
Relations between New Zealand and Fiji have been fraught since the 2006 coup in Fiji and further deteriorated last year with the tit-for-tat expulsion of senior diplomats, which followed interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama's repeated rejection of international deadlines for elections.
Efforts to re-staff high commissions hit another hurdle when Fiji provocatively put up Permanent Secretary for Information and military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni for the position of counsellor in Wellington.
New Zealand has a travel ban on members of the military-led regime and Lt Col Leweni played a central role in the coup, was responsible for censoring local media, deporting journalists and curbing free speech, all moves that have met with criticism from the Australian and New Zealand governments.
McCully told NZPA that he had got Australia involved in the talks after an initial meeting in Nadi in January where he and Kubuabola discussed lower level appointments to commissions.
High Commissioner appointments were not discussed. "In that respect New Zealand and Australia were in identical positions and we were not going to get involved in topics that affected Australia or set precedents for Australia without Australia being in the room," McCully told NZPA.
At New Zealand's High Commission in Suva staff from New Zealand were down to
seven: one policy officer, two support staff, two NZAID staff, and two
immigration officials. Since the coup three senior diplomats have been expelled,
while the trade representative, who was married to one of the expelled
diplomats, was also expelled, and the defence and police liaison positions were
unfilled because Fiji would not agree on roll-overs for the positions.
Fiji was down to a single non-local staff.
McCully said one goal of the talks had been achieved.
"The first objective is to be able to conduct a good civilised diplomatic
conversation because it's fair to say that New Zealand and Fiji, and Australia
and Fiji, have not had a good track record on being able to agree to
The ministers were working on establishing a base for diplomatic
"Hopefully that leads into upgrading the machinery by which we have
diplomatic dialogue which means lifting the capacity of our missions. But in
terms of... high commission appointments both Steven Smith and I have made the
point that there's no point in us appointing high commissioners who are going to
be sent home the first time there's a disagreement between New Zealand and Fiji
and we are not yet at that point."
McCully said while no solid understanding had been reached, a framework for
future discussions was in place.
"So it's just a question of moving this thing forward deliberately and
McCully said the mood had been "constructive and professional".
He had talks later in the evening with his Fijian counterpart to continue
discussing the issue.
Kubuabola was "someone who is trying to do his best in difficult
McCully said removing the travel ban was not on New Zealand's immediate
Fiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum in May last year and from the Commonwealth in September over Cdre Bainimarama's broken promises to hold elections by March 2009 - NZPA