Maldives hopes for first U.S. embassy late this year or early next

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Foreign Minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid visits Beijing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Maldives hopes to see the United States open a first embassy in the country at the end of the year, or early next, and the Indian Ocean state hopes to reopen its embassy in Washington by the end of this year, the Maldivian foreign minister said on Sunday.

U.S. diplomatic dealings with the Maldives are currently handled through the U.S. embassy in politically troubled Sri Lanka, while the Maldives is represented in the United States via its mission to the United Nations.

Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid told an event in New York hosted by a U.S. think tank that he believes relations between the Maldives and Washington "have never been this strong."

He said the Maldives was looking for property to house an embassy in Washington and added: "It is our target that we will have our embassy up and running by the end of the year."

"Hopefully by the end of this year, or early next year, we will have the United States embassy up and running in the Maldives, which is historic," he said.

Shahid said the Maldives had an embassy in Washington after independence in 1965 but this had to be closed due to budgetary reasons. He said he reopened the embassy in 2007 in his previous stint as foreign minister, but it was closed again after a change of government in 2008.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the plan to open a U.S. embassy in the Maldives during a visit to the country in 2020, saying the nation had increasingly important role in the Indo-Pacific, where the United States is vying for influence with China.

In July, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate a career foreign service officer, Hugo Yue-Ho Yon, to be ambassador to the Maldives.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Diane Craft)