French President Emmanuel Macron pledged strong support for the island nation’s debt restructuring and discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations with his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe during a historic visit to Colombo.
The first-ever visit by a French president to Sri Lanka took place as the two countries celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties this year.
Macron, who was on his return home from a 5-day visit to the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, was met by Wickremesinghe at the airport and spent over two hours in Colombo on Friday. His visit marked the first time a French President visited Sri Lanka.
Wickremesinghe and Macron held “friendly and productive” bilateral discussions to enhance and elevate the existing relations between Sri Lanka and France, the President’s Media Division said in a statement on Saturday.
The discussions figured on Sri Lanka’s ongoing debt restructuring process. Macron reaffirmed France’s willingness and commitment to support Sri Lanka in its economic recovery. As Colombo’s fourth-largest creditor, France pledged its assistance in the debt restructuring process, aiming for a positive outcome for the country, the statement said.
Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.
“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,” Macron tweeted after the meeting.
The discussions during the over-one-hour meeting between the two presidents 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, according to the statement.
“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,” the statement reads.
Additionally, both leaders exchanged views on regional and multilateral interests in the current global context. 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.
Wickremesinghe showed interest in the Indian Ocean Commission, where France actively participates, and conveyed Sri Lanka’s agreement to join the Paris Agenda for the People and the Planet, emphasising the island nation’s commitment to global efforts for a sustainable future.
He also 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.
In June, Wickremesinghe met Macron in Paris during the heads of state sessions of the conference for a New Global Financing Pact. Meanwhile, the Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa also arrived Friday night on a two-day visit and paid a courtesy call on Wickremesinghe on Saturday.