Chinese defence minister meets President Michel-● Visits coastguard base


The Chinese delegation during their meeting with President Michel yesterday

The meeting was also attended by the Seychelles Minister for Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy, Joel Morgan; the Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam; the Chief of Defence Forces, Brigadier Leopold Payet; the Chinese ambassador to Seychelles, Shi Zhongjun; the secretary of state in the President’s Office, Barry Faure and the principal secretary for Foreign Affairs, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne.

The visit of the Chinese defence minister follows discussions held by President Michel with the Chinese vice-president, Xi Jiling, in October in Beijing, on cooperation issues as well as the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

“We will build on our already excellent relations with increased cooperation in defence. We deeply appreciate the support of the government and people of the People’s Republic of China in our time of need, when we are defending our sovereignty in the fight against piracy. “We are also very grateful to the government of the People’s Republic of China for the donation of the two Y-12 aircraft this year and also for the support under the military cooperation agreement signed today,” said President Michel, who is also the Minister for Defence, and Commander-in-Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF).

The President said that the agreement would ensure that the Chinese military assistance through training, equipment and exchange visits would strengthen the SPDF and increase its capacity to protect the country against pirate attacks.

“Together, we need to increase our surveillance capacity in the Indian Ocean, and as Seychelles has a strategic position between Asia and Africa, we are the recognised centre for the coordinated efforts to combat piracy, and develop peace and stability in the region,” added the President.

“China has a desire to develop good relations on the principles of peace, equality and peaceful co-existence, whether it be with a large country or a small country. China has built a harmonious society and we are working to build a harmonious international community,” said Major General Ci Guowei, deputy chief of Foreign Office of the Ministry of National Defence, on behalf of the Chinese military delegation following yesterday’s meeting.

After the meeting Minister Morgan told the press that the talks had focussed on cooperation between China and Seychelles in the fight against piracy, terrorism and ways to strengthen our security.
They also focused on training for members of the SPDF in China.

Mr Morgan said the fact that General Liang is heading a strong delegation is recognition of the leadership role Seychelles is playing in the anti-piracy effort.

Touring the coastguard facilities

The talks also related to China’s policy on Africa.
Minister Morgan added that the presence of the Chinese ministerial delegation is another stong indication of President Michel’s active diplomacy.

Following the meeting at State House, the Chinese delegation visited the Seychelles Coastguard base on Bois de Rose Avenue where they were given a  briefing by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Rosette.

In the presence of Minister Morgan and Brigadier Payet, Lt Col. Rosette acquainted the Chinese dignitaries with Seychelles Coastguard efforts in maritime security and counter-piracy operations. He showed them maps detailing attempted hijacks and successful pirate attacks.

Lt Col. Rosette explained that because of Seychelles’ strategic location and proximity to vital shipping routes, cargo vessels are being constantly harassed by the Somali pirates.

He also detailed how piracy is impacting on Seychelles’ tourism, by threatening cruise ships and yachts, while fishing is also seriously perturbed, resulting in reduced income from the sector.

Lt Col. Rosette also told the visitors that while pirates have occasionally taken Seychellois hostage, the coastguards have also proved their mettle and on three occasions launched daring operations to rescue Seychellois fishermen.  

General Liang and his delegation are briefed on the Seychelles Coastguard’s efforts in maritime security and counter-piracy operations

Defence cooperation between Seychelles and China has steadily increased since the signing of a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation in October 2004.

Since 2008, Chinese naval vessels have been patrolling the waters off the coast of Somalia.  The Chinese Navy’s Hospital Ship-Peace Ark Ship visited Seychelles in November 2010 when a total of 139 people were treated onboard with 19 operations done.

Two Chinese frigates also visited Seychelles for the first time in April 2011.
Also this year, the government of China gifted Seychelles two Y-12 aircraft worth $11 million for surveillance of our exclusive economic zone against piracy as well as other illegal and unreported activities.

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