27 Jul 2007

Vanuatu hopes for talks with France over maritime boundary dispute with New Caledonia

4:20 pm on 27 July 2007

Vanuatu's government says it wants to reignite talks with France in the hope of settling a long-standing dispute on their maritime border.

The disputed area includes the tiny islets of Matthew and Hunter, north of New Caledonia's island of Ouvéa, in the Loyalty group.

Since the early 1980s both Vanuatu and France have claimed the islets - and the 200 kilometre economic zone around them.

France has put in a claim to the United Nations to extend its continental shelf beyond the traditional 200 nautical mile limit.

Vanuatu's leading official for maritime boundaries, Tony Tevi, says they are disputing this claim with the UN in the hope it will lead to fresh negotiations.

"France never wanted us to discuss this issue. It might look like globally like (a case of) a small dot against a big giant but we've done it before. We will sit down and discuss these things. We've gained our independence from the French and now we're going to the playing field again."

Tony Tevi says a UN decision on the dispute is due late next month.