Separatists from New Caledonia, a group of islands east of Australia, have called for a referendum on France's independence to be postponed.
They want the vote on the Paris separation, scheduled for September 6 and the second in two years, to be postponed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent it from overlapping municipal elections.
"It is clear that the initial timetable is slightly reversed," said Louis Mapou, head of the National Union for Independence (UNI) movement.
"The second round of municipal elections will take place in June and we should end in March," he added.
Why a second referendum?
France formally annexed New Caledonia in 1853.
But as part of its decolonization process, Paris in 1998 signed the Nouméa Agreement, which formally gave New Caledonia the right to have an independence vote twenty years later, in 2018.
This was done on November 4, 2018. Voters rejected separation from France by 56.4% to 43.6%.
President Emmanuel Macron said he was "proud". New Caledonia showed confidence in the French Republic.
However, under the 1998 agreement, New Caledonia can hold a second vote in 2020 and even a third in 2022 if the territory's legislature agrees.
Last year, a second referendum was scheduled for September 6, 2020.
What is the next?
UNI says it will hold talks on a new referendum date on Friday.
Victor Tutugoro, a prominent figure in the National Socialist and Kanak Liberation Front (FLNKS), said he would like to vote by the end of October to avoid overlap with the municipal election campaign.
Sonia Backès, president of the southern province of New Caledonia and an anti-independence figure, strongly opposed the postponement of the date.
"We gave our word to September 6, we don't want to postpone it," she told AFP, accusing separatists of "putting pressure on the state".
COVID-19 heats up political tensions in New Caledonia
Daniel Goa, president of Union Calédonienne, one of the main FLNKS organizations, requested the looting of the high commissioner and his staff, as well as that of the commander of the armed forces.
He criticized the "Jacobin view" of the state in managing the COVID-19 crisis, calling it "partisan and disloyal".
He also accused the army of not respecting the quarantine protocol when it arrived in the capital Nouméa.
Conservatives Le Rassemblement (LR) considered this "a political maneuver", while Backès pointed the finger at the "destabilization company" of New Caledonia.
New Caledonia was the first French territory to begin lifting the blocking restrictions on 20 April.
The country, which has a population of more than 270,000, has so far only had 18 cases of COVID-19, with no record of deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.