France won't cede disputed islands to Vanuatu

The French government says there is little chance a territorial dispute with Vanuatu will end any time soon.

The long-running dispute over the Matthew and Hunter Islands, which sit between New Caledonia and Vanuatu, flared again recently with the visit of a French warship.

The dispute has been going on for decades, and tempers flared when the French crew painted the tricolour flag on a large rock in January.

That led to calls for Vanuatu to expel French diplomats.

Vanuatu's foreign minister rejected those calls, instead calling for negotiations with Paris to resume.

But senior officials at the overseas territories ministry in Paris have said while they're happy for talks to continue, there is little chance of an end to the dispute.

They said France is not willing to cede their control of the outcrops - and the substantial chunk of economic zone they bring - in any way.