16 May 2011

New Caledonia parties meet in France

6:28 am on 16 May 2011

The French prime minister, Francois Fillon, is today scheduled to begin a series of meetings with political parties represented in New Caledonia's Congress to discuss the territory's political crisis.

The Paris talks, expected to last five days, follow last month's three-day visit to Noumea by the overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, following four government collapses this year amid a deepening row over which flag the territory should use.

France plans a law change to give New Caledonia's government an 18-month grace period, replacing the current provision which sees a government fall if a single minister resigns.

The prime minister's office says he wants to understand the New Caledonians' position and to prepare the next gathering of the signatories of the Noumea Accord, which is the roadmap leading to a possible independence referendum after 2014.