Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

‘This isn’t a fantasy. It’s reality’: France accuses European state of agitating in New Caledonia

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun6,2024
Key Points
  • France has accused Azerbaijan of fuelling tensions in New Caledonia, amid protesting and riots in the island country.
  • Azerbaijan founded the Baku Initiative Group in 2023, which aims to support independence for French colonies.
  • Azerbaijan denies responsibility for the riots, which have resulted in five deaths and hundreds of injuries.
France’s government has accused Azerbaijan of stirring tensions in New Caledonia despite the vast geographical and cultural distance between the Caspian state and the French Pacific territory.
Azerbaijan vehemently rejects the accusation it bears responsibility for the riots that have led to the deaths of five people and rattled the Paris government.

But it is just the latest in a series of tensions between Paris and Baku, and is not the first time France has accused Azerbaijan of being behind an alleged disinformation campaign.

The riots in New Caledonia, a French territory lying between Australia and Fiji, were sparked by moves to impose a new voting law that supporters of independence from France say discriminates against the indigenous Kanak population.

Azerbaijani flags spotted

France has pointed to the sudden emergence of Azerbaijani flags alongside Kanak symbols in the protests, while a group linked to the Baku authorities is openly backing separatists while condemning Paris.

“This isn’t a fantasy. It’s a reality,” French interior minister Gérald Darmanin told television channel France 2 when asked if Azerbaijan, China and Russia were interfering in New Caledonia.

“I regret that some of the Caledonian pro-independence leaders have made a deal with Azerbaijan. It’s indisputable,” he alleged.

But he added: “Even if there are attempts at interference … France is sovereign on its own territory, and so much the better.”

A large group of protesters, many of which are holding up flags.

Protests in solidarity with the indigenous Kanak people have spread as far as Paris as France cracks down on the unrest. Source: AAP / Mohammed Badra

How has Azerbaijan responded?

“We completely reject the baseless accusations,” Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Aykhan Hajizada said.

“We refute any connection between the leaders of the struggle for freedom in Caledonia and Azerbaijan.”

In images widely shared on social media, a reportage broadcast Wednesday on the French channel TF1 showed some pro-independence supporters wearing T-shirts adorned with the Azerbaijani flag.
France is a traditional ally of Christian Armenia, Azerbaijan’s neighbour and historic rival, and is also home to a large Armenian diaspora.

Darmanin said Azerbaijan — led since 2003 by President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father Heydar — was a “dictatorship”.

Azerbaijan invited separatists from the French territories of Martinique, French Guiana, New Caledonia and French Polynesia to Baku for a conference in July 2023.

The meeting saw the creation of the ‘Baku Initiative Group’, whose stated aim is to support “French liberation and anti-colonialist movements”.

The group published a statement this week condemning the French parliament’s proposed change to New Caledonia’s constitution, which would allow outsiders who moved to the territory at least 10 years ago the right to vote in its elections.

Pro-independence forces say that would dilute the vote of Kanaks, who make up about 40 per cent of the population.

Long campaign

Raphaël Glucksmann, the politician heading the list for the French Socialists in June’s European Parliament elections, told Public Sénat television that Azerbaijan had made “attempts to interfere … for months”.
He said the underlying problem behind the unrest was a domestic dispute over election reform, not agitation fomented by “foreign actors”.
But he accused Azerbaijan of “seizing on internal problems.”
A French government source, who asked not to be named, said pro-Azerbaijani social media accounts had posted an edited montage on Wednesday purporting to show two white police officers with rifles aimed at dead Kanaks.
“It’s a pretty massive campaign, with around 4,000 posts generated by (these) accounts,” the source told the Agence France-Presse.
“They are reusing techniques already used during a previous smear campaign called Olympia.”

In November, France accused actors linked to Azerbaijan of carrying out a disinformation campaign aimed at damaging its reputation over its ability to host the Olympic Games in Paris. Baku also rejected these accusations.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “‘This isn’t a fantasy. It’s reality’: France accuses European state of agitating in New Caledonia”
  1. As a French citizen, I believe that France’s accusations against Azerbaijan are concerning. It is crucial for the stability and peace in New Caledonia to address the root causes of the riots, rather than pointing fingers at external actors. The indigenous Kanak population deserves respect and support in their pursuit of independence without foreign interference.

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