Macron, Hayashi visits underscore Indian Ocean geopolitics

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By our diplomatic correspondent

Sri Lanka has been invited as an Observer to join the French initiated Indian Ocean Commission (Commission de l’ocean Indien), an intergovernmental organisation that links five African Indian Ocean member-states.

The invitation came during talks between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and visiting French President Emmanuel Macron and later discussed with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi yesterday. These talks largely centred around the geopolitical climate in the Indian Ocean.

Both visiting VVIPs who touched down in Colombo within 20 minutes of each other early yesterday (Saturday) and held talks with President Wickremesinghe separately shortly thereafter recognised the importance of the Indo-Pacific region being the main theatre of concern for world peace and stability, the Sunday Times was told by those engaged in the talks.

Increased military cooperation between France and Sri Lanka and financing the global challenge to Climate Change without interrupting the United Nations 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and protect the planet were among the other highlights of the Wikremesinghe-Macron summit.

The Indian Ocean Commission set up in 1982 has seven Observers so far — China, the European Union, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, India, Japan, Malta and the United Nations. Sri Lanka will be the eighth. Sri Lanka will, meanwhile, chair the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), a separate 23-member state intergovernmental organisation with 10 dialogue partners.

President Macron pledged to provide his Government’s support through the Paris Club Secretariat for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process. An office of the French Agency for Development (AFD) is also to be opened in Sri Lanka.

Foreign Minister Hayashi making a statement at the joint press conference last morning with his counterpart Ali Sabry stated that Sri Lanka is “an important partner” in Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida’s plan for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FIOP) and that it “attaches importance to cooperation” with the IORA.

Expressing Japan’s intentions to support Sri Lanka’s efforts under the IMF agreement, including in anti-corruption measures and transparency in the policy-making process, Minister Hayashi made reference to former President J.R. Jayewardene’s speech at the San Fransisco Peace Treaty Conference in 1951 that paved the way for Japan to re-enter the international community after World War II. “The people of Japan can never forget that emotionally touching speech”, the Minister said.



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