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By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Paris
Vanuatu’s push to convene a meeting with France at the end of the month to continue negotiations on the disputed Matthew & Hunter Islands, looks highly unlikely.
Indications from Paris this week suggests that ‘France’s position will not change because Vanuatu is refusing to give in.’
“French public opinion does not agree with giving up the disputed islands and we also do not agree with the campaigns from the pro-independence groups like FLNKS supporting Vanuatu’s ownership. The FLNKS have become close to politicians in Vanuatu, according to the Ministry for Overseas Countries and Territories.
Paris is also concerned that if Vanuatu has its way – it will give China the fishing licence and quota for areas around Matthew & Hunter Islands.
Earlier this month Vanuatu’s Foreign Affairs Minister said France was stalling the negotiations.
The Pacific nation stepped up its push to convene another round of negotiation with Paris after the crew of a French naval vessel reportedly polished a plaque and painted the French flag on a rock on the disputed islands in January this year.
Both Vanuatu and France have laid claims to the remote volcanic islands which lie to Vanuatu's south, and east of the French territory of New Caledonia.
In 1976, prior to the former New Hebrides gaining independence as Vanuatu, France annexed Matthew and Hunter islands to New Caledonia, rather than maintaining them as part of the former colony it ruled jointly with Britain.
Vanuatu's government rejected the French take on sovereignty, claiming its own sovereignty over the two islands.
However, securing rights to the territorial waters around them could offer significant potential wealth in marine resources, rare earth minerals and oil deposits.
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