Fiji’s Minister for Defence, National Security, and Policing and Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, and National Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Defence Richard Marles today signed a Status of Forces Agreement between Fiji and Australia.
FILE PHOTO (September 2022): Australian Corporal Louis Carbery, an infantry soldier with 8/9RAR, discusses how his army clears hallways and intersections, at Blackrock Training Camp, Fiji, during Exercise Cartwheel. Story and photo by US Army Sergeant Brian D. Jones, 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
Both ministers agreed the reciprocal SOFA marked an important milestone in the defence relationship between the two countries and affirmed the two countries’ commitment to cooperate.
Today’s agreement covers practical issues including immigration and customs; arrangements for visiting forces to wear uniforms while in the other country; and criminal and civil jurisdiction over visiting forces while in the other country.
Once in force, the agreement will provide a more comprehensive legal framework for the presence of one country’s forces in the other country.
It is reciprocal in nature, with the same obligations being assumed by both parties.
The ministers spoke of how the signing of the Agreement reflected the maturity of the defence partnership, allowing the two countries to continue their history of helping each other in times of crises.
Minister Marles said he was honoured to have signed the Status of Forces Agreement, which underlined the reciprocal nature and closeness of Australia’s partnership with Fiji.
“We share an interest in a peaceful, secure and resilient Pacific and need to work together to effectively respond to common security challenges – both traditional and non-traditional,” Mr Marles said.
“Australia and Fiji know we can rely on each other at times of need.
“This was demonstrated by the deployment of Bula Force to Operation Bushfire Assist and Flood Assist, and the deployment of the Australian Defence Force to Operation Fiji Assist.
“This Status of Forces Agreement will make it easier to deploy to each other’s territories at times of need.”
Minister Seruiratu said the ‘Vuvale Partnership’ exemplified the strong family bonds felt between Fiji and Australia.
“The signing of this agreement marks a new height of security cooperation between our two nations,” Minister Seruiratu said,
“Our security forces train and deploy together in our homes and across the region.
“This agreement reflects the increased cooperation between our forces to address traditional and non-traditional security threats including climate change, humanitarian crises and disasters.
“Fiji and Australia’s security cooperation forms the bedrock of our Vuvale Partnership and helps maintain regional stability, resilience and peace.”