Papua New Guinea
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Macron touches down with two Pacific leaders in tow

BY GORETHY KENNETH and LAWRENCE FONG

French President Emmanuel Macron, one of the most powerful leaders of the free world, touched down in Port Moresby last night amidst an intricate security bubble that involved two massive Airbus planes, seven fighter jets, a throng of media and security personnel, and the leaders of two Pacific Island nations.

His visit is the first by a sitting president to PNG and the Pacific region, having visited Vanuatu and New Caledonia during the week on a historic Pacific tour.

With him also were President of New Caledonia Roch Wamytan, and French Polynesia President Moetai Brotherson. They were received at the Jacksons international airport by PNG prime minister James Marape and other government leaders.

President Macron and his entourage touched down on a French Air Force aircraft, to a 21-gun salute.

He was introduced to the Prime Minister James Marape, who then introduced him to the receiving party- Minister for National Events Justin Tkatchenko, chairman of Motu Koita Assembly Dadi Toka Jr, chief secretary to the government Ivan Pomaleu, France ambassador to PNG Guillaume Lemoine, secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs Elias Wohengu and Chief of Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Major-General Mark Goina.

Mr Lemoine told the Post-Courier on Wednesday that President Macron’s visit was intended to show the French willingness to strengthen their engagement with the region.

“By visiting Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea – a historic first for a president of the Republic in these two independent countries – President Macron is giving impetus to a new dynamic that will materialise in stronger high-level relations in the Pacific,” Mr Lemoine said.

“Through its territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia, France has a military presence in the region, and regularly cooperates with Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations.

“Naturally, this cooperation provides the opportunity for regular visits. Next December, for example, the French minister of Defence will host the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) in Noumea.

“More broadly, President Macron’s visit to Papua New Guinea is an opportunity to support ambitious projects to preserve the country’s forest and biodiversity.

“This strong commitment has been shared on several occasions by President Macron and Prime Minister Marape, notably last March at the One Forest Summit, the first global summit for the protection of tropical forests, co-organised by France in Gabon.

“In Papua New Guinea, the President will confirm France’s determination to help PNG in preserving its forests.

He will also underline the key role of the European Union, which is implementing an ambitious cooperation program called Forests, Climate Change and Biodiversity (FCCB) in PNG.”

He will kick off today’s meeting with a courtesy call and meet and greet with Governor General Sir Bob Dadae at Government House before proceeding to Varirata Park for a visit and back to APEC Haus for more bilateral talks.