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France openly suspects Turkiye, Azerbaijan of conspiring to stir unrest in French overseas territory

May 18, 2024 at 5:17 pm

France flag. [Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images]

A report by a French radio station has accused Turkiye and Azerbaijan of purposefully stirring unrest in the overseas French territory of New Caledonia, in a sign of Paris’s revived tensions with Ankara and Baku.

According to popular right-wing French radio station Europe 1 this week, “Both Azerbaijan and Turkey are suspected of exploiting the Caledonian separatists”, referring to the growing separatist movement in France’s overseas territory of New Caledonia, an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean near Australia.

“It is no longer a secret for the [French intelligence agency] DGSI, which sees the hand of Baku or Ankara behind the Caledonian separatists”, the report stated.

On Monday this week, protests erupted throughout the islands following French lawmakers’ efforts to implement a constitutional amendment that would enable French citizens who have lived in the overseas territory for at least 10 years to vote in its elections – a move which separatists insist would automatically undermine the vote of the islands’ indigenous Kanak population.

The unrest resulted in five people’s deaths, including two gendarmes, hundreds of injured, and the arrests of hundreds of protesters until now. A state of emergency has also been declared throughout the territory.

Intricately involved in the fomenting of the unrest, according to the French radio channel and the French government itself, is reportedly the faraway country of Azerbaijan. Those allegations came after a series of events in recent weeks, including the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Azerbaijan and elected New Caledonian lawmaker Omayra Naisseline last month, which established bilateral parliamentary relations.

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Following that signing, Naisseline reportedly thanked the Azerbaijani government for its apparent support “on our path towards independence [from France]”.

A demonstration by Kanak separatists the previous month also saw the presence of Azerbaijani flags and the symbol of an organisation called the Baku Initiative Group, the goal of which is to “support the fight against [French] colonialism and neo-colonialism”.

Those incidents led to France’s minister of the interior and overseas territories, Gerald Darmanin, openly blaming Baku in an interview with the channel France 2. “I regret that some of the Caledonian independence leaders made a deal with Azerbaijan, which is indisputable”, he said. “Azerbaijan is not a fantasy; it is a reality”. The Azerbaijani government has since denied the allegation, however, calling them “baseless”.

According to the Europe 1 radio channel, Turkiye is also guilty of “launching a disinformation campaign targeting France”, particularly late last year when French defence minister Sébastien Lecornu aimed to visit the New Caledonian capital Noumea.

The alleged joint campaign between Ankara and Baku was reported by the radio station to show that “alliances between secret services are being put in place to designate a common enemy, France”.

The report also implicated the two Turkic states as being controlled ultimately by greater geopolitical powers in those endeavours, citing another alleged source as saying they are “in fact controlled by Moscow and Beijing in order to open peripheral fronts, such as in New Caledonia, or to weaken the French state.”

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