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New Caledonia airport to fully reopen following closure during deadly unrest

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New Caledonia’s main international airport will reopen from Monday after being shut last month during a spate of deadly unrest, the high commission in the French Pacific territory said, adding a curfew would also be reduced.

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The commission said Sunday that it had “decided to reopen the airport during the day” and to “push back to 8:00 pm (from 6:00 pm) the start of the curfew as of Monday”.

The measures had been introduced after violence broke out on May 13 over a controversial voting reform that would have allowed long-term residents to participate in local polls.

The archipelago’s Indigenous Kanaks feared the move would dilute their vote, putting hopes for eventually winning independence definitively out of reach.

Barricades, skirmishes with the police and looting left nine dead and hundreds injured, and inflicted hundreds of millions of euros in damage.

The full resumption of flights at Tontouta airport was made possible by the reopening of an expressway linking it to the capital Noumea that had been blocked by demonstrators, the commission said.

Previously the airport was only handling a small number of flights with special exemptions.

Meanwhile, the curfew, which runs until 6:00 am, was reduced “in light of the improvement in the situation and in order to facilitate the gradual return to normal life”, the commission added.

French President Emmanuel Macron had announced on Wednesday that the voting reform that touched off the unrest would be “suspended” in light of snap parliamentary polls.

Instead he aimed to “give full voice to local dialogue and the restoration of order”, he told reporters.

Although approved by both France’s National Assembly and Senate, the reform had been waiting on a constitutional congress of both houses to become part of the basic law.

Caledonian pro-independence movements had already considered the reform dead given Macron’s call for snap elections.

“This should be a time for rebuilding peace and social ties,” the Kanak Liberation Party (Palika) said Wednesday before the announcement.

Read moreColonial past haunts latest New Caledonia crisis

(AFP)

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