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France tiptoes towards next New Caledonia statute

The French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has wrapped up a week of wide-ranging talks in New Caledonia trying to advance work on a new statute for the territory.

The meetings with various pro-independence parties stood out as the first top-level contact between them and Paris since last December's referendum when full sovereignty was rejected.

The vote marked the conclusion of the decolonisation process under the 1998 Noumea Accord, requiring all stakeholders to discuss a way forward.

Darmanin listened to the views of all sides concerned, and he left Noumea with an indication he might return in early 2023.

Earlier French plans to have a new statute ready for a vote by June 2023 were already unrealistic earlier this year, and hopes of driving the agenda without consent from the pro-independence side have further faded.

Darmanin acceded to the wishes of pro-independence parties to initiate bilateral talks once their umbrella organisation, the FLNKS, has held its congress in January.

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