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New Caledonia: Macron visits troubled area – first tourists are flown out

New Caledonia: Macron visits troubled area – first tourists are flown out

The French overseas territory of New Caledonia is not calming down. Dozens of pro-independence roadblocks that security forces had cleared were recently rebuilt. Insurgents armed with iron bars barricaded themselves behind the obstacles to the airport, which they had erected using, among other things, burned-out cars stacked on top of each other.

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to travel to the French overseas territory on Tuesday. Government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot said in Paris that he wanted to set up a dialogue committee there in order to find a political answer to the conflict.

No flights to and from New Caledonia

The road to the airport has been blocked for days. Flights to and from New Caledonia are suspended. On Saturday, the government said that 3,200 people were stranded because of the flight cancellations. Australia and New Zealand have now sent the first planes to the South Seas to start evacuation flights for their citizens.

La Tontouta International Airport near the capital Nouméa will remain closed to commercial flights until at least Thursday morning, the operator announced.

Paris deploys hundreds of security forces

The French government’s representative in New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc, said there was still widespread looting and “big fires.” Schools, post offices and gas stations remained closed with a few exceptions.

Hundreds of security forces have now arrived in the French overseas territory to get the situation back under control. Le Franc warned the protesters: “If they want to use their weapons, they take every risk.” The conflict remains serious and “unprecedented,” he continued.

The Kanak people make up 41 percent of the population

There have been conflicts between Paris and New Caledonia, with its almost 270,000 inhabitants, for decades. Around 41 percent of them belong to the indigenous population, 24 percent have European – mostly French – roots. There is a strong separatist movement. But in three referendums in recent years, those voting have always spoken out against independence from France. The archipelago around 1,500 kilometers east of Australia is not only rich in raw materials, it is also of strategic importance for France.

Sources: DPA, Reuters, AFP

Source: Stern

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