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Baku Rejects Paris' Accusations of Meddling in New Caledonia Protests

By Yaver Kazimbeyli May 18, 2024


The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan / Courtesy

The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan has rejected a claim by French Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin on Baku’s alleged meddling in New Caledonia’s pro-independence rallies.

In his interview with France-2 on Thursday, Minister Darmanin said “some of the Caledonian pro-independence leaders have made a deal with Azerbaijan,” making yet another scandalous statement about New Caledonia-Azerbaijan ties.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry interpreted the French minister’s remarks as “insulting expressions against Azerbaijan.”

“First and foremost, we once again strongly condemn the French side’s insulting expressions against Azerbaijan and urge to stop the smear campaign against Azerbaijan with unacceptable accusations, such as the massacre of Armenians. […] Moreover, instead of accusing Azerbaijan of allegedly supporting pro-independence protests in New Caledonia, the Minister of the Interior of France should focus on his country’s failed policy towards the overseas territories that led to such protests,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday, calling Darmanin’s words “baseless claims.”

Earlier this month, Minister Darmanin accused Azerbaijan of pitting the issue of New Caledonia against the “defense of Armenians, which does honor to France.”

Darmanin's persistent adamant rhetoric about Azerbaijan on New Caledonia issues is seen as a baseless response to a memorandum of understanding signed between Azerbaijan's Parliament and the Congress of New Caledonia on April 18. The memorandum provides for enhancing inter-parliamentary cooperation to foster goodwill between the people of Azerbaijan and New Caledonia.

For this purpose, the sides agreed to facilitate the establishment of permanent connections between the commissions, committees, and bodies of the legislative powers, as well as to organize mutual visits of delegations consisting of parliament members to study and share experiences in parliamentary and international activities.

New Caledonia, a French overseas territory colonized in the 19th century, has been rocked by fierce protests sparked by proposed legislative changes from Paris. At least three people have been killed in the protests since they commenced earlier this week. With the changes, approved by the French parliament on Wednesday, Paris aims to grant voting rights to French residents who have lived in the territory for 10 years. The changes have caused fear among the indigenous Kanak people, who make up over 41% of the population, that their political influence will be further weakened. Protesters reportedly torched cars, set buildings alight, and attacked police stations, leading French President Emmanuel Macron to declare a state of emergency.

The protests, the worst since the 1980s, has engulfed the capital, Nouméa, of New Caledonia, a group of islands nestled between Australia and Fiji. French authorities report hundreds of injuries, including police officers during their intervention to disperse the rallies. The central government representative of New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc, warned that the events could develop into “carnage” as “dark hours lie ahead."