US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, on Wednesday, announced plans to establish the first American embassy in Maldives.
The Secretary of State made the announcement while speaking at a joint press conference with Maldives' Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid, held at Sheraton Maldives as part of his official visit to Maldives.
Reiterating the Unites States' desire to remain "a close partner to a sovereign, democratic and prosperous Maldives", Secretary Pompeo expressed optimism that the new diplomatic presence would invigorate bilateral ties between the two countries.
Highlighting that the traditionally strong defence cooperation between the US and Maldives was growing stronger, Secretary Pompeo indicated the framework agreement signed between Maldives' Ministry of Defence and the United States of America's Department of Defence in September. The agreement is intended to address growing security concerns in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region, including the threat of piracy, violent extremism, terrorism and illicit trafficking.
Secretary Pompeo went on to state that security concerns in Maldives and other island nations in the Indo-Pacific region such as Micronesia and Sri Lanka had become more relevant due to the Chinese government's "lawless and threatening behaviour". He cited activities such as the militarisation of the South China Sea, encroachment into neighbors' economic zones, environmentally damaging actions which cause marine pollution and failure to control illegal fishing activities.
Minister Shahid echoed Secretary Pompeo's sentiments regarding the establishment of the embassy, describing the announcement as a "historic step in the bilateral relations of our two countries".
He noted that the new development would invigorate diplomatic relations, boost economic ties and people-to-people connections in addition to facilitating coordinated efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Indo Pacific region and harmonizing joint actions in addressing global challenges that are of mutual concern.
Discussing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shahid expressed gratitude towards the assistance extended by the US towards strengthening Maldives' healthcare system as well as efforts to facilitate economic recovery.
Till date, the US has contributed over USD 4 million, including a grant aid of USD 2 million as economic support, multiple donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), PCR machines and other related medical equipment, along with donations through multilateral agencies such as the IAEA and UNICEF.
Minister Shahid particularly welcomed the US government's decision to extend the 2019 commitment of USD 20 million through United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He stated that the grant aid, intended to strengthen public finance management, democratic institutions and empower women and youth, would bolster the Maldivian government's efforts to build back better following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, the foreign minister stated that the Maldives-US relationship had reached a new peak, expressing confidence that high level interactions, such as Secretary Pompeo's visit to Maldives, would pave the way for closer ties between the two countries.
Maldives is Secretary Pompeo's third stop in his string of visits to major countries of the Indo-Pacific region. So far, he has travelled to India, Sri Lanka and is scheduled to visit Indonesia after departing from Maldives.
Secretary Pompeo's visit is the highest-level visit by a US Government official to the Maldives, since the visit of US Secretary of State, James Addison Baker III on 24 July 1992.