Emmanuel Macron arrives in New Caledonia following deadly riots

President Emmanuel Macron arrived in riot-hit New Caledonia, having crossed the globe by plane in a high-profile show of support for the French Pacific archipelago wracked by deadly unrest and where Indigenous people have long sought independence from France.

Macron, who briefly spoke to reporters after his arrival at La Tontouta International Airport, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the New Caledonian capital of Noumea, said he viewed a return to calm as the top priority.

“My wish, along with that of my ministers and the government, is to be alongside the people and see a return to peace, calm and security as soon as possible,” he said.

The president binned his previously announced schedule to make the journey of some 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) himself, spurred by the most severe violence to hit New Caledonia since the 1980s. The lightning visit, expected to last just one day, will allow him to see first-hand some of the scars from days of shootings, arson, looting and other violence that has left at least six dead and a broad trail of destruction.

He is expected to push for local leaders bitterly divided by the issue of independence to resume talks, and to thank French security forces that have been seeking to restore order. More than 1,000 reinforcements have been rushed in and a state of emergency was declared last week from Paris to boost their powers.

There have been decades of tensions between the Kanaks and descendants of colonists and others who settled in the territory of 270,000 people and want to remain part of France.


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