26 Jul 2013

French PM hails New Caledonia advances

1:02 pm on 26 July 2013

The French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, says New Caledonia has seen immense progress since the unrest of the 1980s gave way to the Matignon Accords and then the Noumea Accord.

Speaking shortly after arriving in New Caledonia for a two-day visit, Mr Ayrault says the accords have provided firm principles to govern and to rebalance the territory.

He highlighted the construction of the Koniambo nickel plant in the mainly Kanak northern province as a political success of efforts to share the territory's wealth and job opportunities.

However, he says, access to work is still uneven and the challenge remains to provide a perspective for the future.

Mr Ayrault underlined France's commitment to the last phase of the Noumea Accord to help organise a self-determination referendum between 2014 and 2018.

The prime minister will visit the Koniambo plant and Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands before flying to Malaysia on Sunday.