September 22, 2020

Maldives denies sale of islands to Saudi


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From Middle East Online

Government denies plans to sell cluster of small islands to Saudi following opposition protests.

MALÉ – The government on Wednesday denied it was selling a cluster of small islands to , following opposition protests against such a deal, but said it was seeking foreign investment to develop the area.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had accused the government of President Abdulla Yameen of ceding control of the inhabited atoll of Faafu to Saudi Arabia, whose king is due to visit the country.

MDP sources said police had blocked dozens of locals from protesting following reports the land would be sold, and made a handful of arrests.

But the government, which in 2015 lifted a ban on foreign ownership of land, denied any such sale had taken place.

In a statement it said it was working with “a range of international investors” to develop Faafu and the rest of the country and wanted to construct apartments, tourist resorts and airports.

“The administration categorically rebuts allegations that the atoll has been ‘sold off’ to a foreign entity,” it said.

is on a three-week Asian tour and is expected to visit the Maldives — home to 340,000 Sunni Muslims — next week.

The Indian Ocean island nation is a popular upmarket holiday destination but its image has been hit by political unrest in recent years.

Opposition leader and former president is currently living in exile in London after he was jailed on terror-related charges widely criticised as politically motivated.

The low-lying islands are also threatened by rising sea levels and the United Nations has warned the country could be underwater by 2100.

IMAGE: Saudi king due to visit country next week

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