17 Nov 2014

Pro-French march in New Caledonia capital

3:49 pm on 17 November 2014

Thousands of people in New Caledonia have staged a march in Noumea to show their wish to stay French.

The march was called by a group of pro-French poiticians to coincide with a visit of the French president, Francois Hollande, who arrived last night.

On arrival, he said he it would be up to the Caledonians to have the final word on their future as the territory is to hold an independence referendum by 2018 under the terms of the Noumea Accord.

Mr Hollande is in the territory's north for much of the day but will meet local leaders in Noumea tonight after addressing the Secretariat of the Pacific Community about climate change challenges.

Pro-French groups accuse the French state of failing to say what its view is on the independence question which is to be put to a vote during the term of the newly elected New Caledonian Congress.

Both Mr Hollande and the prime minister, Manuel Valls, have said the French state is impartial.