Azerbaijan accused of stirring unrest in New Caledonia as tensions persist

France says it has "no doubt" that Azerbaijan is stirring tensions in New Caledonia despite the vast geographical and cultural distance between the oil-rich Caspian state and the French Pacific territory.

In what is the latest in a litany of tensions between Paris and Baku, France has directly accused Azerbaijan of being behind an alleged disinformation campaign that has fomented the riots in New Caledonia.

Azerbaijan rejects the accusation over this week's unrest, which have led to the deaths of at least five people and rattled the government in Paris.

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

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

“This isn't a fantasy. It's a reality," 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.

France is a traditional ally of Christian Armenia, Azerbaijan's neighbour and historic rival, and is also home to a large Armenian diaspora.

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