New Caledonia's former Congress president says the independence referendum due in 2018 is inevitable.
Gael Yanno told public television that a vote should be held with a clear question to determine whether people want to stay with France.
Mr Yanno, who is a member of the small anti-independence UCF Party, said once the vote has been held, negotiations will follow on a clear basis.
Alluding to rivals in his camp, he said he was against talking now about a new accord to be drawn up before the 2018 vote.
The 1998 Noumea Accord, which has been the decolonisation roadmap transferring powers from France to New Caledonia, will run out with a referendum in 2018.
As the guarantor of the Noumea Accord, Paris has said the plebiscite will take place although it is up to the territory's accord signatories to draw up the timetable and referendum question.
Voting will be restricted to long-term residents in line with an amendment to the French constitution.