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New Zealand ‘gravely concerned’ with situation in French territory New Caledonia

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Wellington, May 16 (IANS) New Zealand on Thursday said that it remains “gravely concerned” about the situation in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory in the Pacific Ocean.”New Zealand, as a neighbour of New Caledonia and fellow member of the Pacific Islands Forum, has a strong interest in the peaceful resolution of the situation there. France and New Zealand are close partners in the Pacific. We are urging all sides to engage in constructive dialogue,” said Foreign Minister Winston Peters.On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to declare a ‘state of emergency’ in New Caledonia after the escalating situation and violent protests in Noumea resulted in the death of two gendarmes.Macron urged the need for a resumption of political dialogue and asked the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories to quickly invite the New Caledonian delegations to Paris.New Zealand, meanwhile, said on Thursday that it is in “close contact” with local authorities in Noumea and Paris and partners such as Australia and Japan, so as to keep abreast of developments.Meanwhile, French armed force National Gendarmerie has reinforced its numbers on site by sending several squadrons of mobile gendarmerie and soldiers.”New Caledonia is the scene of numerous tensions, linked in particular to a strong mobilisation against a constitutional reform, examined on May 13 and 14 in the National Assembly, which is opposed by the separatists. Added to this political context is an economic aspect, also a source of unrest: the fragility of the nickel sector, involving factory closures in the country,” it stated.–IANSas/svn

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