30 Mar 2010

Noumea Accord follow-up talks postponed

10:30 am on 30 March 2010

France has postponed next month's meeting of the follow-up committee overseeing New Caledonia's Noumea Accord on greater autonomy.

Noumea's daily newspaper says the overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, will visit the territory in a month and the meeting is then expected to go ahead in Paris about one month later.

The meeting is to review progress on the 1998 accord which had been signed by the territory's main pro- and anti-independence parties and the French state, and sets out an irreversible process to transfer powers from Paris to Noumea.

The phased shift is to culminate in a referendum on possible independence by no later than 2018.

However, there are informal discussions on what the territory's status should be after the Noumea Accord expires.

This comes amid calls to avoid a referendum which observers say is unlikely to see a majority vote for independence.