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Monday, 31 July 2023 00:15 –      – 179

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 President Ranil Wickremesinghe smiles as French President Emmanuel Macron gestures during a quick conversation before boarding his official aircraft Airbus A330 at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake Friday midnight following an hour-long bilateral discussion

 

  • Pledges strong support for SL’s debt restructuring, bolsters bilateral relations during one hour engagement with President Wickremesinghe at Katunayake whilst Macron’s official aircraft Airbus A330 refuelled en-route to Papua New Guinea from New Caledonia and Vanuatu
  • Macron first-ever French President to visit Sri Lanka
  • Setting up school for maritime safety and security and opening of permanent office for French Agency for Development among specific initiatives discussed

Emmanuel Macron became first-ever French President to visit Sri Lanka Friday midnight and discussed issues of bilateral and regional interest with President Ranil Wickremesinghe whilst former’s official aircraft Airbus A330 re-fuelled at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

The French President was en-route to Papua New Guinea after short visits to New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Despite local hype, none of the major international media outlets such as Reuters, Paris-based international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), CNN or BBC reported the visit or the discussions. However, Reuters and AFP reported the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa to Sri Lanka.

Macron was given a traditional welcome by Kandyan dancers and a guard of honour by the armed forces as he walked back to the aircraft.

The President’s Media said the two Presidents held friendly and productive bilateral discussions which lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes.  The main objective was to enhance and elevate the existing relations between Sri Lanka and France, especially considering the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic ties being celebrated this year.

President Wickremesinghe expressed admiration for France’s significant role in global affairs, particularly in areas such as climate mitigation, global debt restructuring, and matters related to the Indo-Pacific region.

President Macron recalled his recent conversations with President Wickremesinghe in Paris, which took place during the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. He reaffirmed France’s willingness and commitment to supporting Sri Lanka in its economic recovery. As the fourth-largest creditor to Sri Lanka, France pledged its assistance in the debt restructuring process, aiming for a positive outcome for the country.

In a Twitter post following the discussions, President Macron stated: “Sri Lanka and France are two nations in the Indian Ocean sharing the same goal: an open, inclusive and prosperous indo-pacific. In Colombo we confirmed it: strong as in our 75 years of diplomatic relations, we would open a new era to our partnership.”

The discussions between the two leaders focused on strengthening cooperation in various sectors, including politics, economics, tourism, climate change, sustainable development, and maritime activities. As part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations, several specific areas for further collaboration were identified.

These areas of cooperation included the establishment of a school for maritime safety and security, the opening of a permanent office for the French Agency for Development (AFD) in Sri Lanka, the initiation of high-level diplomatic dialogues, cooperation in the education sector, and the enhancement of efforts to combat human trafficking in the maritime safety and security sector.

Additionally, both leaders exchanged views on topics of regional and multilateral interest in the current global context. President Macron expressed keen interest in collaborating with Sri Lanka during its upcoming chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), of which France is a member. In turn, President Wickremesinghe showed interest in the Indian Ocean Commission, where France actively participates.

President Wickremesinghe praised President Macron’s timely initiative in organising the event held in Paris in June 2023, which he attended. He also conveyed Sri Lanka’s agreement to join the Paris Agenda for the People and the Planet, emphasising the country’s commitment to global efforts for a sustainable future.

The French delegation accompanying President Emmanuel Macron for bilateral discussions will include the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna,  Ambassador of France in Sri Lanka and Maldives Jean-Francoise Pactet, Advisors to the French President Fabien Mandon, Walid Fouque and Josue Serres, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Head of Asia Department Benoit Guidee, Press Counsellor of President of France Jonas Bayard, State Minister for overseas territories  Philippe Vigier and Advisor of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Florian Cardinaux.

The Sri Lankan delegation accompanying President Ranil Wickremesinghe included Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabri, the Senior Advisor to the President on National security and Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardane, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Economic Advisor to the President Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunge, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Director General/Europe and North America Shobini Gunasekera and Director Youth and Sustainable Development to the President Randula Abeyweera.

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