New Caledonia

France accuses Azerbaijan of interfering in New Caledonia

France accused Azerbaijan on May 17 of interfering in the conflict in New Caledonia, and spreading anti-French propaganda on social media to enflame the unrest in the French overseas territory. The charge was based on a report published by the French state investigative agency Viginum, alleging that Azerbaijan has disseminated "manifestly inaccurate or misleading content—photo or video montages—blaming France for its handling of the situation in New Caledonia in the context of the riots." The report came one day after French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accused Azerbaijan of making an agreement with the New Caledonia independence leadership, implying that this was retaliation for French support of Armenia in the conflict between the two Caucasus nations. Darmanin further added that France will not cede to the violence, and that it maintains sovereignty over New Caledonia.

China factor in New Caledonia independence vote

In a referendum Dec. 12, voters in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia rejected independence by an overwhelming 96%. The vote was the final of three mandated by the 1998 Nouméa Accord with the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), which had for years been waging an armed resistance. But this may not end the matter—the vote was this time boycotted by the FLNKS and its indigenous Kanak followers, who vowed to carry on the struggle. "We are pursuing our path of emancipation," Louis Mapou, New Caledonia's pro-independence president, told the New York Times.

New Caledonia: one more shot for independence

The results are in for the Oct. 4 independence referendum in New Caledonia and, as in 2018, the majority has voted against seceding from France. However, the proportion of "yes" to "no" votes changed. Support for independence rose from 43% in 2018 to 47% this time, indicating that more residents than ever before want an independent country for their island home. Voter turnout was also even higher than last time, rising from 81% to 85%. And the archipelago could still become independent in the coming years. The 1998 Nouméa Accord [translation] that paved the way for this referendum also allows for one more independence vote, in 2022, for a total of three. One-third of the region's legislature must vote in favor of holding the final referendum—and that body already has a pro-independence majority.

New Caledonia voters reject independence —for now

In an independence referendum that drew record numbers to the polls Nov. 4, voters in the South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia voted 56 to 44 percent to remain a French territory. The referendum marked a major milestone in an independence movement that has spanned decades. Political leaders initially agreed in 1988 to hold a vote on independence after a 10-year period of economic and social development. Subsequent negotiations extended the deadline to the end of the 2014-2018 session of the New Caledonian Congress. The final details were settled this past spring when legislators adopted eight criteria to determine who would be eligible to participate in the referendum.

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