The Maldives has started discussions to re-establish diplomatic ties with Qatar and Iran, the new foreign minister announced Thursday.
Under the new administration, the Maldivian government will have relations with all friendly countries, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid told reporters at his first press briefing.
“We have been highlighting the principle we will use to establish relationships; that is countries that are friendly, cooperative and want to have relations with Maldives. We will continue strengthening relationships with all the countries who wants to have a good relationship with us,” the former speaker of parliament said.
Discussions were already under way with Qatar and Iran, Shahid added.
“Qatar, specifically, is a country that helps Maldivians a lot. So we will start work on re-establishing ties with Qatar. We also have to re-establish ties with Iran,” he said.
Under the administration of former president Abdulla Yameen, the Maldives took Saudi Arabia’s side in several international disputes.
The Maldives severed diplomatic relations with Qatar after Saudi Arabia, Egypt and four other Arab countries cut ties with the oil-rich Gulf state amid a diplomatic crisis in June 2017.
At the time, the foreign ministry claimed the government “took the decision because of its firm opposition to activities that encourage terrorism and extremism.”
Ties with Iran were cut in 2016 when Maldives along with other Sunni Muslim countries joined Saudi Arabia in diplomatic action against the kingdom’s Shia-majority neighbour.
The foreign minister went on to announce plans to travel to India on his first official visit followed by trips to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China.
The purpose is to seek assistance for restructuring foreign debt, a large portion of which is owed to China for loans offered to finance the previous administration’s flagship infrastructure projects.
Shahid will be accompanied by the ministers for finance and economic development.
During the visit to India, the Maldives delegation will meet the Indian prime minister and senior government officials. Discussions on easing visa restrictions will be on the agenda, he said.