14 Jul 2017

French PM to visit New Caledonia late this year

1:31 pm on 14 July 2017

The French prime minister Edouard Philippe will reportedly visit New Caledonia in early December as the territory gears up for next year's independence referendum.

France's newly appointed Prime Minister Edouard Philippe poses prior to taking part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1.

Edouard Philippe Photo: AFP

This was announced by a senior Kanak leader Victor Tutugoro after talks in Paris between a delegation of New Caledonia's pro-independence FLNKS movement and Mr Philippe.

Mr Tutugoro also said the last of the usually annual meetings of the signatories of the 1998 Noumea Accord will be held in the second half of October to prepare the plebiscite, which is due to be held by November next year.

The date for the prime minister's visit has not been officially confirmed.

Mr Tutugoro said the FLNKS delegates made the Paris visit this week to meet the new French leadership and to discuss sovereignty issues as formal power rests with France.

He added that there have been no recent discussions with New Caledonia's anti-independence side which he says has been shying away from discussing the sovereignty issue.

The French government has given New Caledonia's Congress until May to organise the referendum, failing which Paris will step in as guarantor of the accord and plan the vote in line with the Noumea Accord timetable.

French overseas minister Annick Girardin, who this month met rival New Caledonian delegations, is due in Noumea in two weeks.

Although the referendum question is yet to be worded, a recent opinion poll suggested a majority wants to stay with France.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs