29 Oct 2020

Lecornu stays on in Noumea amid New Caledonia tension

2:32 pm on 29 October 2020

The French overseas minister Sebastien Lecornu is extending his official visit to New Caledonia.

The minister was due to fly back to Paris tonight but decided to continue talks with local politicians amid heightened tension following the referendum on independence earlier this month.

No date has been given for his return trip.

Mr Lecornu has toured the territory for nearly a week after spending two weeks in quarantine at the French High Commission in Noumea from where he held talks via videolink with key leaders, including Australia's foreign minister.

Sebastien Lecornu

Sebastien Lecornu Photo: AFP or licensors

The anti-independence camp has warned of the risk of violent conflict if a third referendum goes ahead in two years while the pro-independence side insists on such a plebiscite which is possible under the Noumea Accord.

Demonstrations are planned for tomorrow by groups opposed to the planned sale of the giant Vale nickel plant.

Two weeks ago, more than 10,000 people rallied outside the French High Commission to demand extending voting rights in provincial elections to all residents.

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