French President Emmanuel Macron has urged New Caledonia to forge a common future after the most recent “no” independence vote.
During his visit to the capital Noumea, AFP news agency reports Macron called the three independence referendums over the past five years “unprecedented”, and said “the choice that was expressed was to stay in France and the Republic”.
Pro-independence, indigenous Kanaks boycotted the third independence referendum in 2021, arguing a fair campaign was impossible during the covid-19 pandemic.
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Aux Calédoniennes et Calédoniens. https://t.co/OpMZanyN3q
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 26, 2023
He held out the prospect of a “slow, humble, demanding” process to build a “shared history” for New Caledonia through a process of “truth and reconciliation”.
“It is not a full stop, it is a semi-colon”, Macron said.
“I am with our compatriots during these days to define together the basis for this new path, of this new project for the future of New Caledonia — respectful of its identity, of its history but in the light of the choice that has been made.”
Macron is also seeking to reassert his country’s importance in the Pacific region, where China and the United States are vying for influence.
1.5m ‘overseas’ citizens
France has nearly 1.5 million citizens in its Pacific and Indian Ocean territories, as well as several thousand troops, including 1600 in New Caledonia.
After his first stop in New Caledonia, Macron will travel to Vanuatu on Wednesday night for a two-day visit before heading to Papua New Guinea, where he is expected to lay out a “French alternative” for the region.
He is the first French President to visit non-French territories in the Pacific.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ and Asia Pacific Report.