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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 11, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---The New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea governments signed an agreement Thursday that permits both parties access to each other’s territorial fishing waters, the daily Post Courier newspaper reports.

The accord, which was signed by PNG Foreign Affairs Secretary Evoa Lalatute and the head of the New Caledonia delegation, Annie Beustes, also allows both parties to explore commercial cooperation, particularly with regard to fishing matters.

In addition, it paves the way for further exchanges of information regarding fisheries development.

"PNG welcomes this move as we see New Caledonia and France as long term development partners not only in the fisheries sector but also in other areas," Lalatute said.

Mrs. Beustes described the agreement as outstanding for New Caledonia, adding it was New Caledonia's first experience in negotiating foreign relations agreements since authorized to do so by France.

She said New Caledonia expects the agreement to result in profits for both countries.

Under the Noumea Accord signed two years ago between French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, anti-independence RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic) leader Jacques Lafleur and pro-independence FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) leader Roch Wamytan, New Caledonia was granted gradual autonomy, with a shifting of French powers to the local government, and a possible vote on independence within "15 to 20" years from 1998.

The accord also gave New Caledonia powers to deal with its foreign affairs, especially in the Pacific region, including signing international treaties.

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