21 May 2024

President Emmanuel Macron to fly to New Caledonia within hours

11:32 pm on 21 May 2024
Emmanuel Macron President of the Republic of France at the Tour de Table - Round Table at the headquarters of the European Council meeting in Brussels with the EU heads of states. The French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron and the leaders have on their agenda to discuss on the 2-day summit the support to Kyiv and Ukraine, strengthen Europe’s economy, security and defense capabilities, migration, China and external relations. Jens Stoltenberg the Secretary General of NATO attended the summit. Brussels, Belgium on June 29, 2023 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto)
Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP

President Emmanuel Macron Photo: Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron will fly to New Caledonia within hours, as the French Pacific dependency has been engulfed in violent riots for the past eight days.

Macron said the main objective was to "install" a "dialogue mission" to resume political talks with all stakeholders and find a "political solution" to the crisis.

The announcement came from Macron's spokesperson Prisca Thévenot, who also said "return to order was the preliminary condition to any talks."

"It has been announced by the President, during the Cabinet meeting, that he will travel there this evening (Paris time)", Thévenot said.

It has not been revealed as yet who were the members of the mission.

A photograph shows a roadblock set up by residents of Noumea's Sixth Kilometer district, bearing a handwritten message which reads as 'Peace' in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia on May 19, 2024. French forces smashed through about 60 road blocks to clear the way from conflict-stricken New Caledonia's capital to the airport but have still not reopened the route, a top government official said on May 19, 2024. (Photo by Delphine Mayeur / AFP)

Photo: AFP/Delphine Mayeur

There had been calls from across the political spectrum, both in mainland France and in New Caledonia (including from capital Nouméa Mayor Sonia Lagarde) over the past few days, for such a "dialogue mission".

The calls also involved Macron withdrawing a controversial Constitutional Amendment that would "unfreeze" New Caledonia's conditions of eligibility and allow some 25,000 French citizens to vote at local provincial elections.

The amendment has been endorsed by France in both houses of Parliament, but it remains to be ratified by the Congress, a joint sitting of both these Houses.

Macron's initial plan was to convene this Congress sometime by the end of June.

Macron's announcement was widely welcomed, but at least two pro-France parties, Les Loyalistes and Rassemblement, told a press conference earlier Tuesday that to withdraw the text amounted to "condoning the rioters and looters' actions."

"Terrorism, violence must not win (...) We're asking the French State to restore law and order", said local pro-France politician Virginie Ruffenach.

As New Caledonia entered its second week of destructive riots, the situation on the ground had not yet been stabilised, despite the deployment of some 2,800 police and security forces on the ground.

The main highway linking the capital Nouméa to its international airport remains closed to the public and all commercial international flights have now been cancelled until Saturday.

In several Nouméa neighbourhoods, burning, and looting of businesses was still ongoing, even though French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc, on Tuesday, described the situation as "slowly returning to normal."

It is currently estimated that at least four hundred businesses and retail outlets have been destroyed, for an estimated total cost so far of almost one billion Euros.

Since last week, New Caledonia has been placed under a 12-day state of emergency.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal was also planning to travel to New Caledonia, "not immediately, but in the coming weeks", Thévenot elaborated.

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