5 May 2010

Paris starts fresh round of talks with New Caledonia pro-independence leaders

12:48 pm on 5 May 2010

The French overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, has held a first meeting with New Caledonia's pro-independence leaders as Paris is to chair a scheduled review of the 1998 Noumea Accord on greater autonomy.

She has met the president of the northern province, Paul Neaoutyne, who led the UNI-Palika party delegation to France two weeks later than planned because of the travel disruption caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption.

There was no comment by the minister, but Mr Neaoutyne says he will take part in the review to ensure the accord is honoured.

With a referendum looming in 2014 at the earliest, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has called for discussions to find a way that the vote will translate into a majority of voters approving the result.

There have been calls for a deferral of the possible vote on independence, while Mr Sarkozy's leading political associate in Noumea, Pierre Frogier, wants a decision as soon as possible after 2014 to bury the independence option.