France's Macron calls for lifting of barricades in New Caledonia

Caledonian pro-independence movements had already considered reform dead given Macron's call for snap elections.
Macron
Macron

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday called on residents of the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia to dismantle barricades after weeks of unrest, adding the situation remained "unacceptable."

In a public appeal, Macron called for "the firm and definitive lifting of all blockades" and "the condemnation of violence."

New Caledonia, which is located between Australia and Fiji, has been ruled from Paris since the 19th century but many indigenous Kanaks want greater autonomy or independence.

Riots broke out in mid-May after anger over voting reform spilled into weeks of deadly protests.

French authorities insist Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, is back under their control, although barricades remain and pro-independence demonstrators have said they are determined to stay in the streets.

In a sign of a slow return to normality after five weeks of unrest, schools reopened on Monday, as did Noumea's international airport.

Last week Macron announced that the controversial voting reform would be "suspended" in light of upcoming snap parliamentary polls in France.

In the letter published by local media in New Caledonia, Macron called for dialogue and patience.

"It always takes longer to build than to destroy," he wrote.

The French president said the situation "remains unacceptable, and those who encouraged it will have to answer for their actions."

Caledonian pro-independence movements had already considered reform dead given Macron's call for snap elections.

Macron has called the snap parliamentary elections three years early in a dramatic gamble to shake up politics in France after the far right trounced his centrist camp in EU elections.

With the first round of voting set to take place on June 30, polls have underlined fears that his alliance risks being squeezed by new coalitions on the left and right.

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