French President Emmanuel Macron said a vote by citizens of tiny Pacific archipelago New Caledonia to remain a part of France on Sunday marked a “historic milestone.”
Some 56.4 percent of voters in New Caledonia — a territory of 270,000 people just east of Australia — opted to remain a part of France, while 43.6 percent called for independence.
Of the total population, some 175,000 were eligible to vote in the ballot, which came two decades after an accord setting out how New Caledonia should be administered by France until a referendum could take place.
Macron said the vote was a “historic milestone” and a “great pride” for the republic, while adding “now let us turn to the future.” He visited the island’s capital in May, but had largely stayed out of the referendum campaign.
France claimed the islands in 1853 but New Caledonia has had a special status among the country’s colonial outposts owing to the Nouméa Accord, the 1998 deal that laid the ground for an independence vote.
Read this next: Pompeo: US to hold Khashoggi killers accountable while maintaining US-Saudi ‘strategic relationship’