(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron touched down in New Caledonia early Thursday and called for a “return to peace, calm and security” after days of violent protests in the Pacific territory sparked by a proposed change to the voting franchise.

“My wish here, with my ministers and the entire government, is to be with the population,” Macron said in a video posted on X after landing. “The return to peace and safety is also a return to normal services, to food supplies because I know a number of people are living through a moment of great crisis.”

During his visit, Macron will meet with political, economic and youth representatives, with the president saying his discussions will touch on reconstruction, economic support and “the most delicate of political questions” — the future of New Caledonia.

The Pacific territory of 270,000 people has been in turmoil since May 13, when violence erupted over plans to extend voting rights to more residents, which indigenous Kanaks say would diminish their electoral influence. Paris declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia after several people were killed and businesses and cars were torched in rioting. 

The unrest has also impacted nickel production with French miner Eramet SA saying it was running its local unit at minimum capacity. New Caledonia was the world’s third-biggest producer of the battery metal last year, accounting for around 6% of global output, according to the US Geological Survey. 

Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front member Jimmy Naouna told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Thursday that he would be willing to meet with Macron during the French leader’s visit, although no official talks have been scheduled at this stage.

Why French Territory of New Caledonia Is in Chaos: QuickTake

Naouna said Macron’s visit could help ease tensions, but added that he’ll wait to see what the French leader commits to during his time in New Caledonia. 

“It’s a political crisis so there needs to be a political solution,” he said.

New Caledonia is located about 17,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from France, and just under 2,000 kilometers east of Australia. It was annexed in the mid-19th century and Paris gave the colony overseas territory status in 1946. 

Under the terms of the Nouméa accord that sought to diffuse an earlier political crisis, voting in provincial elections was restricted to people who had resided in New Caledonia before 1998 and their children. The measure was aimed at giving greater representation to the Kanak population, who make up about 40% of the population.

The latest changes, backed by Macron, would allow people who had resided in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote, increasing the size of the electorate.

The territory has held three independence referendums, all of which have favored remaining part of France, though the most recent vote in 2021 was boycotted by indigenous leaders.

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