President Abdulla Yameen has departed to Saudi Arabia to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit due to take place in Riyadh on Sunday.
Leaders from more than 50 Arab and Islamic states from around the world will meet with US President Donald Trump at the summit “to renew their collective commitment to confronting the threat of violent extremism and global terrorism,” according to the Saudi government.
Yameen will address the summit on Sunday evening, the president’s office said. He was invited to attend by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
The president was accompanied on the trip by Foreign Minister Dr Mohamed Asim, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, and Minister of State at the President’s Office Mohamed Naseer.
“The aim of the summit is to establish an Arab Islamic-American Alliance in the fight against terrorism,” the president’s office said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was quoted as saying in a statement: “There are many who try to find gaps between the policy of the United States and that of Saudi Arabia, but they will never succeed. The position of President Trump, and that of Congress, is completely aligned with that of Saudi Arabia. We agree on Iraq, Iran, Syria and Yemen.
“We believe that a reduced U.S. presence in the world, and in the region, results in the vacuum being filled by the forces of evil. The legacy of this summit is a pivotal moment in opening a new dialogue between east and west promoting tolerance and isolating those who claim that there is animosity between Islam and the world.”
A much-anticipated visit to the Maldives by the Saudi monarch was meanwhile cancelled in March, ostensibly due to a flu outbreak, amid opposition protests against alleged plans to sell Faafu atoll or parts of it to the Saudi royal family.
Ahead of the cancellation, the opposition-aligned Raajje TV aired a leaked audio clip of Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan saying that the constitution was amended to facilitate the sale of the uninhabited island of Himithi in Faafu atoll to Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman Al Saud.
The constitution previously prohibited foreign ownership of Maldivian land, but controversial amendments were brought in July 2015 to authorise foreign freeholds if an investment exceeds US$1 billion and 70 percent of the project site is reclaimed land.
The forthcoming investment “from the Saudi government or leading figures in Saudi” was first announced by Yameen in late January.
On March 1, Yameen said the Saudi-funded US$10 billion project will be similar to “mixed development projects in the French Riviera” with “residential high-class development, many tourist resorts, many airports”.
But both the Maldivian government and Saudi embassy later denied allegations of plans to sell off land to the royal family.
Since assuming office in November 2013, Yameen has visited Saudi Arabia twice on official visits and fostered closer relations with the kingdom.
During the last visit in October, the Saudi government pledged to lend US$150 million to help repay loans taken for an unprecedented infrastructure scale-up.
The government also secured US$80 million from the fund to help finance infrastructure development projects in Hulhumalé.
Other development assistance from the kingdom includes US$50 million pledged for a military housing project, a US$20 million grant for budget support in May 2015, and US$1 million as grant aid to finance the feasibility study for a transhipment port in the Maldives’ northernmost atoll.
In May last year, the Maldives severed ties with Iran after protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The Maldives is also among 34 countries that joined a Saudi-led Islamic military alliance formed to combat terrorist organisations.
In November 2015, Saudi Arabia and Maldives penned an agreement hailed as a “religious bridge” to maintain religious unity. Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad said at the time that the Saudis will help maintain the Maldives’ 100 percent Muslim status.