Russia says France ‘illegitimately’ holding Indian Ocean island

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People demonstrated in Mayotte in May against a potential change of the status of the French territory.  By Ornella LAMBERTI (AFP/File)People demonstrated in Mayotte in May against a potential change of the status of the French territory. By Ornella LAMBERTI (AFP/File)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused France of ignoring UN resolutions and illegitimately holding the Indian Ocean archipelago of Mayotte.

Situated between Madagascar and Mozambique, Mayotte is the only island in the Comoros archipelago which did not split from France after an independence referendum in 1974.

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Even though Mayotte opted to remain with its colonial-era power, the Comoros still claims control — in which it is backed by several UN resolutions — in a territorial dispute with France.

“Despite numerous resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly on this issue, France continues to illegitimately hold Mayotte,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow alongside Comoros Foreign Minister Souef Mohamed El Amine.

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“Countries which organised the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, Mayotte from the Comoros, and have tried several times to change regimes in countries where they considered it necessary, show blatant double standards,” said Lavrov, alluding to Western countries.

Mayotte, comprising two islands, Petite-Terre and Grande-Terre, today has the administrative status of a French “department,” roughly equivalent to a county.

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This entitles it to support for infrastructure, medical care, and education just as in mainland France.

Its citizens, living in the farthest region of the European Union, have unfettered rights to travel, work and live in the EU.

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