New Caledonia state of emergency to be lifted, says Paris

  • World
  • Monday, 27 May 2024

Police wait for the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron at the central police station in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia on May 23, 2024. LUDOVIC MARIN/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Seven more mobile force units will soon arrive as reinforcements in New Caledonia, the Elysée said in a statement on Monday, also indicating a state of emergency would end as planned in the French Pacific territory on Tuesday morning local time.

The state of emergency would end on Monday evening at 8:00 p.m. in Paris (Tuesday 5:00 a.m. in Noumea).

Seven people have been killed, hundreds arrested and large numbers of buildings and cars destroyed in a fortnight of upheaval triggered by a contested electoral reform and fuelled by sharp economic disparities between the indigenous Kanak population and people of European background.

Police shot dead a man on Friday evening, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron visited to try to calm tensions.

The arrival of an additional 480 gendarmes will bring the number of French security forces in the Pacific territory to some 3,500.

Macron's decision not to renew the state of emergency illustrates Paris's desire to start the process of de-escalation and re-establish conditions for dialogue, the statement added.

The main pro-independence political coalition, FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) issued a communique on Saturday saying the priority was easing tensions and the only viable solution was a "political and non-repressive solution".

Lifting the state of emergency was intended to allow FLNKS to meet, the French statement said.

Macron "recalls that the lifting of the roadblocks is the necessary condition for the opening of concrete and serious negotiations", it added.

Christian Tein of the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), which organised the roadblocks that are impeding movement and supply of food and medicine across the island, said on Friday it "remain mobilised, we maintain the resistance in our neighbourhoods, in a structured, organised way".

No announcement was made on a night curfew imposed by local authorities in New Caledonia.

The operator of Noumea international airport has announced it will remain closed until June 2.

(Reporting by Jean Terzian in Paris and Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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