Thank you very much. Mr. President, Ambassador, Vice President Speaker of the National Assembly, , and the Chief Justice and Ministers, the leader of government, businesses, the National Assembly, leader of the opposition, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
I really can’t tell you how grateful I am that all of you are here and how honored I am to be here with all of you. And Mr. President in particular, I want to thank you for your hospitality, for your leadership, and say the democratic transition that you have ushered in here is an inspiration. And while democracy is hard at work, as we know in our own country, the reforms you are taking offer a great example of how a country like Seychelles can be a global model so thank you.
We appreciate how Seychelles has welcomed Special Advisor Jim Donegan. We are proud to announce today he will serve as the Chargé d’Affaires to Seychelles.
The establishment of this embassy is the next critical step to strengthen our partnership and to advance our common goals. We are fortunate that we will continue to benefit from Ambassador Jardine’s outstanding leadership. At the same time this opening today will allow us to begin the process toward dedicating a full-time resident U.S. Ambassador to Seychelles.
The United States recognized Seychelles on June 29, 1976, when representatives of the two states signed an agreement relating to the establishment, operation, and operation and maintenance for tracking, a telemetry facility. The agreement signed in the capitol here, in Victoria on the same date that Seychelles obtained independence from British sovereignty.
The embassy was an integral part of life in Seychelles, particularly when it came to celebrations of the United States Independence Day. Soon after independence, Seychelles suffered a coup that led to 23 years of single party rule until 2020, when then the leader of the opposition, and now current president, won the presidential election.
In 1996 the US government closed its embassy and Air Force tracking station and since then has not had a full-time official presence within Seychelles. That is until now.
That is not to say we have not been working together. In fact, diplomatic representatives based in Mauritius and accredited in Seychelles along with other U.S. government partners have visited Seychelles consistently over the years and worked on a variety of issues.
The United States deeply values the relationship we maintained with Seychelles over that period of time on a host of critically important shared priorities. Democracy and human rights, protecting the environment and tackling the climate crisis, ensuring maritime security and combating the scourge of drug trafficking.
The United States and Seychelles, as it has been mentioned, signed a bilateral agreement on countering illicit transnational maritime operations in July 2021. In March we executed the first bilateral exercise under the agreement which the President and Ambassador Jardine, watched from a Department of C-12 plane high above the ocean. In December US Navy SEABEES from Commander Task Force 68 concluded a successful dive and salvage operation in the Seychelles Ports Authority, with the Seychelles Coast Guard. Members of the Seychelles Defense Force participated in the regional Cutlass Express maritime exercise in March.
We also have a longstanding cultural exchange programs including the Fulbright, the Mandela Washington fellows, and several youth exchange programs that have provided an opportunity for many people in Seychelles to visit the United States, exchange perspectives, and gain new skills.
And we continue to maintain excellent cooperation between Seychelles law enforcement and security agencies and financial institutions and our U.S. government agencies including the DEA, FBI, Treasury, International Organizations that counter illicit activities.
In addition to the arm of the US government support, the Anticorruption Commission of Seychelles today I’m proud to announce further partnership between the United States and Seychelles and our other Western Indian Ocean partners. We will work together with our FBI partners in support of our partners’ efforts to more effectively investigate, prosecute, and disrupt money laundering associated with corruption. And this is part of a broader issue to combat illicit financial flows for transnational organized crime in the Western Indian Ocean and island nations.
The United States also appreciates Seychelles’ leadership on ocean conservation and the blue economy, for joining the Ocean Conservation Pledge at COP27 to advance our shared goal of conserving or protecting 30 percent of the global oceans by 2030 [inaudible] has already done that.
In that we applaud you for launching the world’s first sovereign blue bond pioneering financial instrument designed to support sustainable marine and fishery products. Proceeds from this bond which raised $15 million includes support for the expansion of marine protected areas, improved government priority fisheries and the development of Seychelles’ blue economy.
This embassy will allow us to broaden the cooperation and will remain a physical sign of the long-term U.S. commitment to Seychelles and we look forward to building and growing our embassy presence here in Seychelles and in the years ahead.
Viva Seychelles, viva l’Amerik.