France will lift the state of emergency to allow dialogue in New Caledonia

French President Emmanuel Macron decided on Monday to lift the state of emergency in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, in a move aimed at allowing political dialogue following unrest that left seven dead and a trail of destruction, he said. his office.

The president’s office said in a statement that the state of emergency will not be extended “for the time being” and will therefore end on Tuesday at 5am in New Caledonia (6am NZT).

The decision aims to “allow meetings of the various components” of the FLNKS independence movement, the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, and to allow elected officials and other local leaders “in a position to ask” for the barricades to be lifted to go there. and meet with protesters, according to the statement.

Macron repeatedly pushed for the removal of protesters’ barricades from leaders on both sides of New Caledonia’s bitter divide: the indigenous Kanaks, who want independence, and pro-Paris leaders, who do not.

In the statement, he insisted that it is “the necessary condition for the opening of concrete and serious negotiations.”

Macron’s move comes after he traveled to New Caledonia on Thursday.

The statement states that 480 more gendarmes will arrive on the archipelago “in the next few hours”, bringing security reinforcements to more than 3,500. Among the seven people killed in the shootings were two gendarmes.

Paris had imposed a state of emergency on May 15 for at least 12 days to increase police powers. The emergency measures give authorities greater powers to tackle violence, including the possibility of house arrest for people considered a threat to public order and expanded powers to carry out searches, seize weapons and restrict movement, with possible jail time for offenders. .

This month’s riots broke out as the French legislature in Paris debated amending the French constitution to make changes to voter rolls in New Caledonia.

The leader of an independence party in New Caledonia on Saturday called on his supporters to “remain mobilized” throughout the French Pacific archipelago and “maintain resistance” against the Paris government’s efforts to impose electoral reforms that the indigenous Kanak people fear will be will marginalize even more. .

Christian Tein, leader of the independence party known as the Field Action Coordination Unit, addressed supporters and protesters in a video message posted on social media.

In a separate statement, the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front called on Macron to withdraw the electoral reform bill if France wants to “end the crisis.”

New Caledonia became French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III, Napoleon’s nephew and heir. It became an overseas territory after World War II, and in 1957 French citizenship was granted to all Kanaks.

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