MALE, Nov. 8, (Xinhua) -- The Maldives formally became the 22nd member state of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) after Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid signed the Instrument of Acceptance on Thursday at the 19th Council of Ministers of the IORA in Abu Dhabi, local media reports said here Friday.
Minister Shahid, in a statement said that it was an honor for the Maldives to formalize its membership in the IORA and as a nation that lies in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Maldives pledged to strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration in the region.
In a statement at the Council of Minister's annual meeting, Shahid emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in the areas of maritime safety and security, trade and investment, blue economy, fisheries management, and economic empowerment of women. Shahid also emphasised the need to address the challenges in the Indian Ocean such as Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, terrorism, trafficking in persons and arms.
This year marks the first time the Maldives has taken part in the annual meeting of the Council of Ministers -- the IORA's apex body which consists of the foreign ministers of member states. Maldives first applied to become a member of the IORA in 2017.
The IORA is an inter-governmental organisation of 22 coastal countries bordering the Indian Ocean, as well as 9 dialogue partners. The vision for the IORA was first formulated in March 1995 and was formally launched in March 1997, with the Coordinating Secretariat based in Ebene, Mauritius.
According to the IORA website, the Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world and hosts major sea-lanes carrying half of the world's container ships, one third of the world's bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world's oil shipments.