France organizes the third referendum on the independence of New Caledonia

French Foreign Minister Sébastien Lecornu in New Caledonia

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France has been asked to hold another referendum on independence in New Caledonia – a call heavily criticized by pro-French parties in the territory.

The pro-independence camp invoked the 1998 Noumea Accord, which calls for a third referendum by October next year after the previous two votes – in 2018 and 2020 – saw a majority opt for the status quo .

New Caledonia votes for a second independence from France
Photo: AFP or licensors

The alliance of anti-independence parties, known as the Loyalists, warned Paris that holding a third such vote risked amounting to violent clashes.

Loyalists said the pro-independence party rejected their offer and that of France to find a peaceful alternative to the referendum question, which asks voters if they want full sovereignty.

They said that for the past six months, pro-independence leaders have boycotted the talks and have never stopped saying they will never discuss anything other than full sovereignty.

Last week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex invited New Caledonian politicians to Paris for meetings from May 25 to June 3.

Foreign Minister Sébastien Lecornu said it was time to talk about the future of New Caledonia as unprecedented issues loomed.

The Paris talks will also involve President Emmanuel Macron, who visited New Caledonia three years ago.

Mr Lecornu said New Caledonia’s referendum campaign would not be allowed to conflict with next year’s French presidential election.

He also said that work on the possible consequences of a yes or no must be completed because New Caledonians have the right to know what they are voting for.

The date will be fixed by Paris.

New Caledonia has been on the United Nations list of territories to be decolonized since 1986.

A first referendum on independence was held in 1987, but it was boycotted by the native Kanaks while more than 98% voted in favor of remaining French.

French Foreign Minister Sébastien Lecornu in New Caledonia
Photo: provided

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