The United States has reopened its embassy in the Seychelles after a 27-year absence during which China and other U.S. rivals made significant inroads in the Indian Ocean islands.
“Excited to announce that we have re-opened our embassy in Victoria, Seychelles, marking a return to a full-time diplomatic presence in the country,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Twitter.
In a press release from the U.S. Department of State late Thursday, Blinken said: “The time is right to elevate the relationship so that together we can better address shared challenges and take advantage of mutually beneficial opportunities,” he added.
The reopening of the Seychelles embassy fits within a U.S. strategy to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Currently, the United States is already building a new embassy in the Maldives and has recently opened and announced plans to open more embassies in the Pacific, including in the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Kiribati.
The U.S. Embassy in the Seychelles capital of Victoria was closed in 1996, after the end of the Cold War, as part of cost-saving measures. Ever since, American interests in the Seychelles were handled by diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Mauritius, a small island 800 miles (1,500 km) to the south.
Blinken said that the United States would focus its efforts there on economic development, including the blue economy (the sustainable use of ocean resources), climate change, maritime security, and combating transnational crime and corruption.
“Our joint pursuit of peace, democracy, and prosperity will be a beacon across Africa and the Indian Ocean region,” he added.
Blinken called the Seychelles “a key nation” in the Indian Ocean region. The reopening of the embassy was attended by Seychelles President Ramkalawan, Foreign Minister Radegonde, and other senior government officials.
Jim Donegan, who currently serves as U.S. Special Advisor to Seychelles, now becomes the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
The Seychelles, officially called the Republic of Seychelles, is a 115-island archipelago 600 miles (1,000 km) north of Madagascar and about 800 miles (1,500 km) east of the African coast.
The Seychelles were an uninhabited group of islands when they were discovered by French and British explorers in the 16th century. By the end of the 1700s, the islands came under full British control. In 1976, the Republic of Seychelles was granted independence by the United Kingdom.
Since then, the Republic of Seychelles developed from a largely agricultural society to a more diversified economy. Today, it has the highest GDP per capita of all African countries and is known across Europe as a popular tourist destination.
The Seychelles is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, and the Commonwealth of Nations.