Suva (Fiji) (AFP) - The influential Pacific Islands Forum indicated Saturday it is ready to reopen some doors for Fiji ahead of elections to restore democracy to the island nation eight years after a military coup.
Fiji has been subjected to widespread international restrictions since military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama seized control in a 2006 coup.
But a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) delegation, led by New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, wrapped up a two-day visit to Fiji on Saturday, saying it "welcomed significant progress" towards democratic elections by September 30.
The delegation will recommend to PIF leaders that Fiji be invited to participate in regional trade talks, known as PACER Plus, as well as meetings at trade ministerial level, McCully said.
But the delegation also "emphasised the importance of ongoing improvements to media freedom, freedom of speech, association and assembly".
McCully said it would be in Fiji's interest to have the election judged on its openness and fairness.
"Ministers encouraged Fiji to welcome full international observation of the election to leave no doubt as to its legitimacy," he said.
Bainimarama has announced he plans to run in the September polls and will stand down as military leader at the end of this month so he is eligible to be a candidate.