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06 December 2023

US envoy to head to violence-hit Maldives


The United States said that a senior envoy would visit violence-hit Maldives on Saturday as it called for calm following the resignation of the elected president Mohamed Nasheed.

Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, will visit the Indian Ocean archipelago's capital Male on Saturday, adding the stop to a previously scheduled tour of South Asia, the State Department said.

"We are urging the government and the political parties to work together to resolve this situation peacefully. And we're continuing to monitor the situation," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

But Nuland -- who a day earlier praised new president Mohamed Waheed for committing to a "peaceful transition" -- stopped short of calling the events a coup and said the United States was seeking information from all sides.

"Assistant Secretary Blake will have a chance to be there and talk to everybody on Saturday," Nuland said.

"In the interim we are urging calm, we're urging dialogue, we're urging President Waheed (who), as you know, has committed to forming a national unity government, and we think that'll also be an important signal to political factions across the Maldives," she said.

The US State Department often takes time before declaring that a nation has experienced a coup, a designation that under US law would require a cutoff of all aid.

Nasheed, a former political prisoner who was Maldives' first democratically elected president, told AFP that he was "forced" to resign by a cabal of armed police and soldiers who told him that they would otherwise resort to force.

Violence broke out on Wednesday, with officials saying that residents overran police stations and set fire to government buildings. Stone-throwing protesters fought army and police in riot gear in Male's Republic Square.