French Ambassador for Indo-Pacific affirms commitment to inclusive cooperation

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 01:54 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Says France remains deeply engaged in Indo-Pacific aiming to strengthen partnerships, ensure regional stability
  • Commends Sri Lanka’s stance on Indo-Pacific region, says much common ground on strategies 
  • France-SL maritime security includes plan to establish dedicated training school in Trincomalee
  • Affirms to utilise multilateral organisations like Indian Ocean Rim Association to address common challenges

By Charumini de Silva 

The French Ambassador for Indo-Pacific Marc Abensour yesterday underscored the significance of Sri Lanka as a key partner in France’s strategy for the region, whilst highlighting its commitment towards regional inclusivity and stability.

Speaking to a group of journalists last afternoon during his three-day visit to Sri Lanka, he highlighted France’s deep engagement in the Indo-Pacific proactive engagement in the region aiming to strengthen partnerships and ensure regional stability amid evolving geopolitical dynamics.

“Sri Lanka’s stance on the Indo-Pacific region is commendable and we see a lot of common ground in our strategies,” the Ambassador said. 

He reiterated President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment demonstrated by his extensive visits to various countries in the region last year which included Sri Lanka.

Outlining France’s approach to the Indo-Pacific, Abensour noted the country’s continued focus despite global crises in regions like Ukraine and the Middle East. 

“France remains fully committed to our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific,” the Ambassador affirmed.

The Ambassador underscored the importance of translating dialogue into solid cooperation initiatives, demonstrating France’s commitment to delivering tangible outcomes through its Indo-Pacific strategy. 

He explained that France’s substantial presence in the Indo-Pacific stems from its status as a resident nation, owing to its territories in the South Pacific (such as French Polynesia and New Caledonia) and the Indian Ocean (including La Réunion and French Southern and Antarctic Lands). 

The French Ambassador for Indo-Pacific also highlighted the strategic importance of these territories, which serve as bases for French operations in the region.

“The Indian Ocean, in particular, holds significant importance for France, with over 1.2 million inhabitants and 30% of French economic exclusive zones (EEZ) located in the area,” he added.

He also emphasised France’s contribution to regional stability through its military presence, with around 4,000 military personnel deployed across the Indian Ocean. “French military bases in Djibouti and the Emirates further solidify France’s commitment to safeguarding its sovereignty and securing vital global commons, such as sea lanes of communication and cyber and underwater cables,” he pointed out.

Ambassador Abensour also noted the alignment of France and Sri Lanka’s approaches to the Indo-Pacific, stressing the need for inclusivity and dialogue to address global challenges.

He acknowledged France’s close ally with the United States while noting the importance of engaging with China through dialogue and cooperation on various issues, including climate change and international crises. 

The Ambassador underscored France’s commitment to a threefold approach towards China, balancing cooperation, economic competition and strategic rivalry.

Another key aspect of cooperation highlighted by Ambassador Abensour is the collaboration between France and Sri Lanka on maritime security. 

He revealed plans for a joint project to establish a dedicated school for practical training in maritime security and safety in Trincomalee.

The Ambassador also said that he met with Sri Lanka’s Navy Commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera yesterday.

He said the training school is set to be established under the Kotelawala Defence University and that discussions were underway about the modalities of setting up the training school.

“The initiative aims to enhance the maritime security architecture across the Indian Ocean and contribute to broader regional stability in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.

Ambassador Abensour also shared the commitment of France and Sri Lanka to utilise multilateral and regional-oriented organisations to address common challenges. 

He highlighted France’s active involvement in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) with plans to increase financial contributions and support initiatives related to illegal fishing, humanitarian assistance and environmental protection.