Monday, June 24, 2024

French report slams Turkey for interference in New Caledonia unrest

A popular French radio station has claimed that Ankara is suspected of stirring unrest in the overseas French territory of New Caledonia, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean near Australia.

“Both Azerbaijan and Turkey are suspected of exploiting the Caledonian separatists,” Europe 1 reported, adding, “It is no longer a secret for the DGSI [French intelligence], which sees the hand of Baku or Ankara behind the Caledonian separatists.”

Unrest erupted on the islands on Monday after French lawmakers pushed forward plans to allow citizens who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in the territory’s elections.

Separatists argue that the constitutional amendment would undermine the indigenous Kanak vote, which constitutes about 40 percent of the population.

Unrest in Noumea, the capital city, left five dead, including two gendarmes.

Hundreds were injured, and a state of emergency was declared on Thursday. As of Friday, hundreds had been arrested, and the French government deployed an additional 1,000 security officers to the city.

Paris has already publicly accused Azerbaijan of interfering in New Caledonia, but media allegations against Turkey surprised and amused officials in Ankara.

Gerald Darmanin, French minister of the interior and overseas territories, pointed the finger at Baku in an interview with broadcaster France 2.

“Azerbaijan is not a fantasy; it is a reality,” he said on Thursday, adding, “I regret that some of the Caledonian independence leaders made a deal with Azerbaijan, which is indisputable.”

Baku publicly rejected the allegation as “baseless”.

In April, Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding with an elected official from the local Caledonian parliament, establishing parliamentary relations between the two.

New Caledonian lawmaker Omayra Naisseline then thanked the Azerbaijani state “for being our site on our path towards independence”.

Azerbaijani flags were present at a demonstration by Kanak separatists in March, likely at the initiative of the Baku Initiative Group.

Created just under a year ago, the group’s goal is to “support the fight against colonialism and neocolonialism” in France.

At its inaugural conference in July, it welcomed representatives of independence movements from Martinique, Guyana, Corsica, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia.

Its president, Abbas Abbasov, has denied any involvement in the March protests by Kanak separatists. T-shirts bearing his organisation’s logo were worn by demonstrators at the demonstration.

According to the report in Europe 1, which is owned by a right-wing French businessman, “representatives of the indigenous people attended an international conference on decolonisation in the Turkish capital”.

The report cited a French domestic intelligence source, who said that the Kanak delegation’s transportation was paid for by Azerbaijan’s secret services.

The Baku Initiative Group in fact held the conference titled “Decolonisation: Awakening of the Renaissance” in Istanbul, not Ankara, as claimed by Europe 1.

The French radio station also misreported the date as 1 March, but the event took place on 24 February.

It featured representatives from 13 different territories, including New Caledonia, French Polynesia, French Guiana, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, as well as four international bodies.

While Ankara is not expected to formally repudiate the report, the claims were met by amusement in the Turkish capital.

“It is funny to think that Ankara has an intention to stir unrest somewhere thousands of kilometers away from Turkey,” a Turkish source based in Ankara told Middle East Eye.

“Turkey is a busy country.”

Europe 1 also accused Turkey of “launching a disinformation campaign targeting France” last autumn when the French minister of the armed forces wanted to visit Noumea. It did not provide a source or evidence of the claim.

The radio broadcaster claimed the “campaign” was a sign that “alliances between secret services are being put in place to designate a common enemy, France”.

The report added: “According to another source, Baku and Ankara 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.”

Analysts speaking to French media have alleged that Azerbaijan has backed separatists in New Caledonia to punish French President Emmanual Macron’s support to Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Baku took control of last year after three decades.

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