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Speech delivered by Vice President Meriton on the occassion of the Annual Diplomatic Cocktail, February 12, 2019

13.02.2019

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all today to our annual diplomatic cocktail.

As a Small Island Developing State, we are faced with challenges that are crucial to our sustainability but we will continue to be a strong advocate for the preservation of our pristine natural environment, as well as the sustainability of our planet, in our quest for a secure and dignified life for our citizens.

All the nations of this world are inextricably interdependent and interconnected, hence our commitment and awareness of our responsibility as a member of this global community.

As we turn the page on 2018, we take a look at the achievements of Seychelles on a national and international platform.

My first year as Minister of Foreign Affairs has been full of opportunities to affirm our principles in international engagement and collaboration with our partners.

Seychelles is thankful for your support, and so tonight is in celebration of all our efforts, collaboration and achievements.

2018 was surely a year of change for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

With the launch of the Department’s Strategic Plan 2020 came a restructuring of the Department, along with recruitment of more than 30 new staff locally and in our overseas missions. With such reinforcement, the Department is better equipped than ever to begin 2019 with full force and vigour, whilst conscious of the need for continuous training and development.

I would also like to thank all the Foreign Affairs staff, including our missions abroad for their hard work this past year.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

2018 was indeed a very eventful year!

The figures speak for themselves. Our Ambassadors and High Commissioners in 2018, presented their credentials to no less than 13 countries and international organizations. In return 16 foreign Ambassadors/High Commissions presented their credentials in Seychelles. 35 high level working visits occurred in Seychelles. 42 high level working visits took place overseas.

2018 also saw the appointment of three Seychellois to two key regional organizations, COMESA and SADC. Ambassador Lloyd, to the COMESA Committee of Elders, and Mr. Francis Lebon to the COMESA Competition Commission Board of Commissioners. Ambassador Nourrice was appointed as Deputy Executive Secretary Responsible for Corporate Affairs in SADC.

Seychelles had the honour of welcoming Vice President Acea of the Council of State of Cuba, in February last year for a two-day official visit. Cuba, remains a very important partner for Seychelles especially in support of our health care sector. This visit was also in celebration of 40 years of fraternal bilateral relations. 

For the first time in his capacity as President of the Republic of Seychelles, President Faure attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last April in London. Two months later, in June 2018, we welcomed the official visit of the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. The latter remains one of the most committed international organisations in Seychelles.

Also in June 2018, President Faure undertook his first state visit to India, which saw the signing of a number of MoUs in areas such as Culture, Foreign Service Institute, Cyber Security and the official hand over of the second Dornier aircraft, which is now contributing to maritime surveillance of our EEZ. This visit also saw the two countries agreeing to a string of projects including the construction of 3000 housing units and the Grand Anse, Mahé, Dam by India.

We had the honour of welcoming H.E Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of the Republic of Sri Lanka on a State visit in October. This visit was an invitation extended to President Sirisena by President Faure himself during a State visit to the Republic of Sri Lanka earlier last year. This was also in commemoration of the two countries’ 30 years anniversary of our diplomatic relations.

We thank the President of Sri Lanka for the gift of two new wave rider inshore patrol crafts for maritime surveillance. It was indeed a pleasure for me to be present for the official handing over of the two crafts on 1st February.

The 6th European Union Ambassadors’ political dialogue which took place in November, comprising of representatives from 15 member states, with an increase in participation this year, also goes to demonstrate the strong relationship between EU and Seychelles. As you are already aware, the EU is playing a major role in the Port Victoria expansion project.

As we deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with our international partners, Seychelles last year also held joint committee meetings on cooperation with four countries, namely South Africa, Cyprus, India and the United Arab Emirates.

Seychelles took center stage at the ‘Global Conference on Sustainable Blue Economy’ held in November in Kenya, when President Faure was given the ‘Blue Economy Award on African Maritime Sectors’ at a banquet hosted by the African Union Commission.

This award along with Seychelles’ recognition by African Union as a ‘Champion for the Development of the Blue Economy in Africa’, confirms that Africa is also beginning to gather momentum on the growing worldwide movement to develop the Blue Economy. Seychelles commits to working with all AU member states and partners to fully integrate the Blue Economy across all our policies and programmes in Africa.

My working visit to Japan in December also brought about successful outcomes for both countries. The visit sealed the agreement for Japan to open an Embassy in Seychelles this year. We look forward to the official opening ceremony in a few months and for the enhancing of our excellent relations.

We are also grateful for the generosity of the Russian Federation for its continued support in the education sector, thanks to the many scholarships in fields such as medicine, history, dentistry, international relations, forensics and psychology. We are also appreciative of the Russian Federation engagement in our fight to maintain maritime security in our region.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Much more has been achieved in 2018 and we hope that in 2019, we will continue to work in strong collaboration with our international partners.

Our approach in 2019 with regards to our foreign policy will continue to be based on pragmatism, multilateralism and the enhancement of bilateral cooperation. Maritime Security, the Blue Economy and Climate Change wil feature highly.

Maritime Security including the surveillance of our EEZ against piracy, drug trafficking and illegal fishing and overall exploitation of our maritime resources will always be top priority for Seychelles.

Expanding on what I have already said about our Blue Economy agenda, is our commitment to integrate the Blue Economy within the maritime sectors across Africa. As we know, the Blue Economy development encompasses maritime transportation, fisheries, aquaculture, oil and gas exploration, coastal tourism, to name a few, all of which are economic activities with huge benefits. One key focus which emerged in 2018 is the shipping sector.

Seychelles has since committed to host the first investment forum of the Pan-African Shipping Line planned for 26 – 27 September 2019. President Faure also last year announced the allocation of land in Seychelles for the construction of the Headquarters of the Africa Ship-owners Association. This building will also host the Pan African Shipping Line Head Office as a centre for all ship owners in Africa, which will act as a hub for all activities related to the shipping and maritime sectors.

On the issue of Climate Change, COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, in December could be termed as positive, as it sets nations on the path for successful implementation of the historical Paris Agreement. Seychelles will continue to call on the international community to do more on climate change as this is a matter of grave concern for us as a SIDS.

We shall leverage on our leadership of the African SIDS Commission in Climate Change to foster international solidarity and action in this direction.

Regionally, we will continue to engage with our regional organizations such as COI, COMESA, SADC, the IORA and African Union.

The African Union Agenda 2063 will continue to remain a priority for Seychelles in 2019. Especially since Seychelles, in addition to being the leader of the Africa SIDS Commission on Climate Change, is also the Champion for the Development of the Blue Economy.

Internationally, Seychelles will remain an active partner in the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the EU, the ACP and the UN Organizations.

Our partnership with the UN is expected to take a further leap with the signing last August of the Strategic Partnership Framework, which aims to align a majority of the UN Organisations with Seychelles’ national development priorities.

We shall intensify our collaboration with the UNDP which with climate finance related grants and environmental projects alone has mobilized over USD13 million for Seychelles.

We are pleased to note thatthe WHO office in Seychelles has now been elevated to the level of resident representative since August 2018. This move will surely enhance our cooperation in health care.

We expect to re-engage with UNICEF in an innovative way to address the many social ills that put our younger generation at risk.

Seychelles will join the rest of the world this year in celebrating the 100 years of existence of the International Labour Organisation, the oldest UN specialized agency.

As for the reform of the UN Security Council Seychelles’ position will be faithfully aligned to the Ezulwini Consensus of Africa which is a position agreed upon by the AU.

 

Excellences

Mesdames et Messieurs

Il ressort de ce que je viens de dire plus haut que la politique étrangère des Seychelles s’appuie sur des principes constants. Certains de ces principes sont inscrits dans notre Constitution. D’autres sont en relation avec les instruments juridiques dont nous sommes parties.

En ma qualité de Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, je m’emploie à assurer correctement l’exécution de cette politique. C’est une politique qui a été élaborée sur la base d’une vision humaniste des relations internationales, centrée autour du développement économique, au service du peuple Seychellois. Et nous veillons à sa constante et nécessaire adaptation à l’évolution des relations internationales.

C’est en accord avec ces principes, que le Chef de l’Etat, le Président Danny Faure, a participé en novembre dernier au Premier Forum sur la Paix et la Sécurité, organisé à l’initiative du Président Emmanuel Macron à Paris, à l'occasion du centenaire de la fin de la première guerre mondiale.

Toutes les nations du monde éprises de paix et de liberté, ont salué l’opportunité et la pertinence de ce Forum, car il a servi à nous mettre en garde contre les risques de guerre, ravivés par la remise en cause croissante du modèle multilatéral, fondement des relations internationales depuis la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale.

C’est fort des mêmes principes, que le Président Faure a porté la voix des Seychelles au 7e Forum sur la Coopération Sino-Africaine (FOCAC), à Beijing. Cela pour souligner non seulement le rôle important et la contribution remarquable de la Chine au développement de notre continent, mais aussi pour saluer l’engagement de cette grande Nation millénaire en faveur d’un monde multipolaire apaisé. Sans compter sa solidarité exemplaire avec nos pays, en particulier avec les Seychelles. C’était en septembre.

C’est-à-dire le même mois, où les Seychelles, à travers ma personne, se voyaient confier la présidence de la Commission de l’Océan Indien, précisément le 13 septembre 2018, à l’Ile Maurice.

Les Seychelles sont pleinement conscientes des enjeux et des défis qu’implique cette nouvelle responsabilité. Et je m’emploierai à en faire une présidence dynamique et innovante.

Comme seule organisation régionale africaine composée seulement d’îles, la COI est logiquement le porte-voix des intérêts insulaires de l’Océan indien. C’est pour cela que ma présidence a choisi d’être conquérante et de défendre dans tous les forums les intérêts et les atouts de nos Etats membres. Et cela sans complexes.

C’est dans cet esprit, que le 12 octobre 2018, au 17ème Sommet de la Francophonie, à Erevan, j’ai invité les autres états insulaires de cette grande famille francophone, à conjuguer leurs efforts autour des valeurs sur lesquelles se fonde la Francophonie et la COI, à savoir la démocratie, la paix, la solidarité, le partage et le respect.

C’est dans ce même esprit de solidarité et de fraternité qu’au titre de la Présidence de la COI, nous avons accompagné la République sœur de Madagascar dans son cheminement électoral vers une alternance démocratique apaisée et la réconciliation nationale. J’y ai moi-même beaucoup participé, avec d’autres, et j’en suis fier. Dans la foulée, j’ai aussi conduit au début de ce mois la délégation de la COI au Comores à l’invitation des autorités Comoriennes, pour une mission d’information et d’évaluation en vue des élections présidentiels du mars et avril.

Mesdames et Messieurs

Je suis fier d’avoir participé le 24 octobre dernier, à l’inauguration de l’Antenne Réunion aux Seychelles.

Comme je l’avais dit à cette occasion, les Seychelles et La Réunion partagent des valeurs et des approches communes face aux grands enjeux de la sous-région et nous sommes très sensibles à la mise en œuvre du Programme INTERREG dont elle assure la gestion. C’est dire que c’est avec beaucoup d’intérêt que nous attendons la signature prochaine de la Convention-cadre, pour donner un nouvel élan à nos relations bilatérales.

En somme, Mesdames et Messieurs, au-delà du traditionnel échange annuel de vœux qui nous réunit ce soir, je voudrais vous dire que les Seychelles sont bien honorées de vivre avec vous et d’entretenir les liens d’amitié, de coopération et de solidarité avec les pays et les institutions que vous représentez.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I would like to express our gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps and to the Consular Corps for all your support and continued friendship to Seychelles.

I therefore take this opportunity to raise my glass, and invite you all to join me in toasting to our achievements of 2018 and many more successes during 2019.

Thank you and have a great evening.

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