March 26, 2019

France ready to host Vanuatu Government officials to negotiate North Loyalty Island border issues

The French Government is ready to host Vanuatu to continue negotiations on the delimitation of the border in the North of Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia.

Last week diplomatic sources in Paris confirmed the meeting will go ahead in Europe at a mutually accepted date between both parties.

“We are ready to meet with our friends from Vanuatu here in Europe. We see this as a confidence building exercise in the lead up to the eventual discussion on the controversial Matthew and Hunter Islands.

“We want to continue with the ‘open and constructive dialogue’ with Vanuatu. They had proposed to meet in January this year but the date was not favourable from our end, according to a diplomatic source in a media briefing in Paris Friday.

The French official said Paris has friendly relations with the Government of Vanuatu and the two countries have a number of bilateral projects that benefits the people of the Pacific nation – that is locked in a diplomatic tug of war over the ownership and sovereignty of two small and uninhabited islands located 200 kilometres east of New Caledonia and south-east of Vanuatu.

In January 2017, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai met with French foreign officials to start negotiations on the Northern Loyalty island border with Vanuatu before a follow up negotiation was convened in Sydney in February last year

Matthew and Hunter Islands are claimed by Vanuatu as part of Tafea Province, and considered by the people of Aneityum part of their custom ownership while France claimed that it is part of its overseas territory of New Caledonia.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Salwai sent a strongly worded letter to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron criticising Paris of disrespecting Vanuatu’s sovereignty when a French naval mission landed on the uninhabited islands and painted the French flag on a rock.

Both countries are calling for friendly solutions to the unresolved border issue.

SOURCE: PACNEWS
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