February 9, 2018 / 1:37 AM / 16 days ago

China says international community should play constructive role in Maldives

BEIJING (Reuters) - The international community should play a constructive role in promoting stability in the Maldives, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a visiting envoy from the troubled Indian Ocean island state, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The Maldives’ embattled President Abdulla Yameen has sent envoys to friendly nations such as China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to brief them on a political crisis that prompted him to impose a state of emergency on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, best known for its luxury hotels and dive resorts.

Regional power India has joined Britain, the United States and the United Nations in calling for the lifting of the emergency and the freeing of two Supreme Court judges who had sparked the crisis by ruling last week that imprisoned opponents of Yameen should be released.

Meeting in Beijing on Thursday, Wang told economic development minister Mohamed Saeed that China believes the Maldives government and people have the “wisdom and ability to appropriately handle the issue facing them and return the country to normal order in accordance with the law”, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“China does not interfere in the Maldives internal affairs, which is also an important criterion of the rules of the United Nations charter,” Wang said.

China supports the Maldives government to resolve differences via dialogue and consultation with all relevant sides, to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty, he added.

“The international community should play a constructive role in promoting the Maldives’ stability and development on the basis of respecting the Maldives’ wishes,” Wang said.

China has provided selfless aid to the Maldives, he added.

The ministry cited Saeed as saying that the Maldives was committed to resolving the current problem themselves.

Rivalry between India and China for influence in the Maldives became more evident after President Yameen signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond.

India, which has had longstanding political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in overwhelmingly Muslim country of 400,000 people. Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene in the crisis.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait & Simon Cameron-Moore

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