President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih states his administration will not make any decision that undermines Maldives’ independence and sovereignty in the territorial dispute with Mauritius over Chagos, or any other matter related to foreign relations.
He made the remark in his speech in the special ceremony held to commemorate the Day Maldives Embraced Islam on Wednesday evening.
Speaking at the ceremony President Solih said his administration has not taken any decision that undermines Maldives’ sovereignty in the Chagos dispute, and neither will it allow it in the future.
“Article 3 of our Constitution clearly stipulates Maldives’ boundaries. And the Maldives’ Act on Maritime Territories stipulates what to do when Maldives’ exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of another,” he said.
The territorial dispute is over an area between the Maldives and Chagos Islands - a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometers south of the Maldives archipelago.
For decades, Mauritius and the United Kingdom have been in a dispute over ownership of the Chagos, after Mauritius claimed the Chagos archipelago as Mauritian territory when Mauritius gained independence from the UK in 1968. Maldives became involved in the dispute as the country's exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of Chagos.
Mauritius lodged the case with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on August 23, 2019.
Speaking Wednesday, President Solih said efforts to settle the dispute had been going on for far too long. He said an agreement on the matter had been reached with the UK back in 1992, when the UK agreed to divided the disputed area based on the principle of equidistance.
“And later, in 2011, deliberations progressed between the governments of Maldives and Mauritius to settle the dispute. I am talking about Chagos. It was agreed at the time to settle the dispute through deliberations. We continue to uphold the policy of protecting Maldives’ best interests in this matter – which is how the state has acted since the very beginning,” he said.
He said that previous Maldivian administrations had in the past carried forward negotiations on the matter with different parties – some with the UK and some with Mauritius.
President Solih said his administration is seeking a resolution to the dispute at the ITLOS and not with any specific country.
He said his administration is acting in the best interests of the country.
He said that some people were making deliberate attempts to mislead the public and create strife for political gain.
“It is a concerning issue that some people, despite knowledge of the facts surrounding the case, are deliberately spreading false information for personal or political gain. And the attempt to create division and fear among the people by spreading such misinformation of greater concern,” he said.
President Solih said that Islam is the religion of peace, harmony, and brotherhood, and that truthfulness is crucial to uphold Islamic virtues.
He called on the Maldivian people to refrain from acts that promote strife within the community.