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Little sign of progress in UN bid to resuscitate Maldives talks

Tamrat Samuel, the United Nation’s special envoy to the Maldives, left Malé on Friday with little apparent sign of progress in resuscitating all-party talks.



Tamrat Samuel, the United Nation’s special envoy to the Maldives, left Malé on Friday with little apparent sign of progress in resuscitating all-party talks.

Samuel, a senior advisor to the UN department of political affairs, arrived in the Maldives on April 16 to lay the groundwork for political party dialogue, which remains at a stalemate with the government and opposition at loggerheads over the release of political prisoners.

Major differences still remain on a way forward, Samuel said. He was, however, encouraged by the desire for talks by all sides, the UN said in a statement on Friday.

Samuel’s two-week visit comes amidst continuing pressure on the government to convene all-party talks and release political prisoners, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The Commonwealth has meanwhile threatened action if there is no progress on dialogue by September.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, laid out a six-point reform agenda in February, which includes the release of political prisoners and judicial reform.

During his visit, Samuel held extensive discussions with President Abdulla Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, other senior government officials, leaders of the main political parties, civil society representatives, business leaders and the diplomatic community in Malé and Colombo, Sri Lanka.

“The discussions have also produced a few promising areas of possible convergence of views and compromise to end the current stalemate and pave the way for dialogue,” the UN said.

Assuring the Maldives of continued support and further consultations in the near future, the UN said that differences of position between the opposition and the government need to be narrowed.

The president’s office said Samuel’s efforts “in moving forward the party talks was successful.”

Yameen said he “wishes to reassure the UN, members of the international community, all political parties of the Maldives, and the Maldivian people, of the government’s commitment to facilitating successful all-party talks.”

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, however, said it was concerned by the delay in convening formal talks, and said it is willing to enter into UN-facilitated talks when its concerns are met and a more conducive environment for dialogue is established.

“The MDP fears that if the UN is unable to deliver these talks within a reasonable timeframe, the situation in the country will further deteriorate, exposing the people of the Maldives to increasing human rights abuses, injustice, corruption, and violent extremism,” the party said in a statement.

The MDP and its ally the religious conservative Adhaalath Party are demanding the release of opposition leaders as a confidence building measure before they sit down for talks.

Nasheed, whose jailing on a terror charge last March triggered the ongoing political crisis, is currently in the UK on government-authorized medical leave. The government revoked a decision to extend the opposition leader’s leave, but is reviewing the decision now.

Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the president of the Adhaalath Party, and two former defence ministers have been transferred to house-imprisonment for 30 days.

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, said in January that he will consider targeted sanctions if there is no sign of progress in the Maldives.

The US Senate unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution earlier this month calling on the Maldives to “redress” the injustice of Nasheed’s jailing, while top Senators have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to consider all options at his disposal to end the ongoing crackdown on democracy.

The parliament of the European Union adopted a similar stance in December, passing a resolution urging member states to impose asset freezes and travel bans against Maldivian government officials and their supporters in the business community.