Diplomacy Politics

Saudi Arabia and China’s leaders congratulate Maldives president-elect

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Chinese President Xi Jinping have congratulated president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his election victory.

Both the Saudi king and crown prince made phone calls to the president-elect on Sunday, “looking forward to developing and enhancing relations between the two countries.”

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s new prime minister, called Solih on Monday morning, his spokeswoman Mariya Ahmed Didi said at her daily press briefing.

In his congratulatory message, Xi Jinping expressed willingness to cement the China-Maldives friendship and “deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields to better benefit the people of both countries,” according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Amid criticism from traditional allies over the jailing of opposition leaders, President Abdulla Yameen fostered closer ties with Riyadh and Beijing, condemning alleged meddling by “Western imperialists” and declaring that the Maldives was “looking east” for development partnerships.

His defeat in the September 23 election was widely reported as a blow to China because of its financing of large-scale infrastructure projects.

During the campaign, Solih pledged to review contracts but assured the public that ongoing projects would continue.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed, leader of the main opposition party, said the new government would renegotiate Chinese debt and also accused Beijing of land-grabbing.

China sternly rejected the criticism. Last Wednesday, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry slammed the opposition leader’s claims of land-grabbing and dragging the Maldives into a debt trap.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party has been strongly critical of Chinese investments and debt-dependency,” Andrew Small, an expert on China and author of The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, told the Maldives Independent earlier.

“But Beijing is also very pragmatic and they will look to work with the new government to ensure the continuity of as many of their investments as possible, to mitigate the fallout and reputational costs for the Belt and Road, and to ensure that decent political relations are maintained.”

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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