Vanuatu PM To Discuss Maritime Boundary Dispute With France

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Carcasses concerned about creation of New Caledonia marine park

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 6, 2014) – The Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses, has told Parliament he planned to lead a Vanuatu Government delegation to Paris in June in the next step to resolving the maritime boundary dispute between Vanuatu and France over the southern islands of Matthew and Hunter.

Speaking in Parliament Friday, the Prime Minister said his Government was concerned about the unilateral decision by the New Caledonia Government on April 23, 2014 to establish what it called a Natural Park that covered the French territory’s entire Exclusive Economic Zone and included Matthew and Hunter, south of Tafea Province.

He insisted the maritime boundary dispute with France must be resolved and he announced he planned to lead a Government delegation to Paris next month to discuss the issue.

"If the matter is not resolved after our trip to Paris, we must take the issue to the international courts," Carcasses stressed.

On Friday too, a protest note from the Vanuatu Government to the French Government, over the decision by the New Caledonia Government to establishment a marine natural park, that also covers Matthew and Hunter, was lodged with the French Ambassador to Vanuatu, Michel Djokovic.

In the letter, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Edward Natapei, said the Vanuatu Government fully objected to the decision by the New Caledonia Government.

He called the decision to unilaterally establish a Natural Park of the Coral Sea within its maritime jurisdictions, when the New Caledonia Government knew full well that part of the jurisdiction in question was currently under dispute, particularly over Matthew and Hunter Islands of Vanuatu’s Tafea Province, "an irresponsible act".

"The decision does not promote respect for Vanuatu’s national sovereignty and its traditional heritage and cultural rights, which is deeply revered by the indigenous people of Vanuatu and the Kanak people of New Caledonia," Natapei said in his letter.

He reminded the French Government of the existence of a maritime boundary dispute between the two countries and called on the French Government as a major player in maintaining peace in the region and an important promoter of cultural rights to resolve the same.

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