4 Jun 2010

Penchard begins New Caledonia visit ahead of Noumea Accord review

1:22 pm on 4 June 2010

The French overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, begins a four-day visit to New Caledonia today to meet local leaders ahead of a Paris meeting in late June to discuss the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy.

Her talks are to help set the agenda for the accord review as tension has spread within the rival anti- and pro-independence camps.

The visit also comes against the background of a call by the French president to open a debate about the territory's future status before 2014 which is the earliest date for a possible independence referendum.

Efforts to develop a New Caledonian identity appear to have slowed, with continued disagreements over the kind of flag to adopt.

The pro-independence side has accused the anti-independence politician, Pierre Frogier, of reneging on the Noumea Accord by resisting the creation of a new flag that excludes the French flag.