Maldives government on Monday claimed to have held secret talks with self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed over the ongoing political strife in the archipelago.
In response to the letter sent on behalf of the three political parties along with former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to embattled president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom outlining the opposition's pre-conditions for the all party talks, chief government representative for the talks Dr Mohamed Shainee claimed to have engaged in dialogue with key opposition officials through "prominent foreign mediators."
The letter said the opposition were ready for 'proximity talks' mediated by the UN if the government would meet the pre-conditions which included immediately implementing the February 1 Supreme Court ruling, lift the state of emergency and free all political prisoners.
The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including Nasheed.
President Yameen on February 5 had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.
As the state of emergency expired, president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.
Maldives government, in the face of mounting international pressure made a fresh attempt to start the failed all political party talks in a desperate bid to resolve the crisis.
The fisheries minister during a press conference on Monday said the government had been engaged in talks with Nasheed following the Supreme Court order on February 1.
Shainee said Nasheed had then claimed to have represented the opposition while both sides had agreed to keep the dialogue a secret.
The minister said the dialogue with Nasheed had made significant headway where "documents had been exchanged" while both sides had reached an agenda for the party talks.
"We exchanged documents. We changed some of the conditions after the discusions and even managed to agree on an agenda. We needed assurances that all opposition parties were in agreement with what we had discussed [with Nasheed]. We shared this with the EU and UN without telling them who we were in talks with," he explained.
However, the initial talks broke down after the opposition during a press conference on February 15 largely rejected the government's invitation for talks and public announced its pre-conditions for any sit-down, Shainee added.
The opposition had also claimed that the government was divided over allowing the UN to mediate the talks but insisted that the refusal to allow a UN role in the dialogue casts question marks over the government's sincerity to resolve the political crisis through dialogue.
Shainee however, reiterated that the government had not at any point rejected the UN's offer to mediate the talks.
President Yameen has used the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.
Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.
The accusations against Gayoom included bribing lawmakers and judges to influence their authority while the deposed ruling party leader has also been accused of creating discord within the security forces to back the overthrow of his half-brother's government.
The two top court judges are accused of accepting bribes to influence Supreme Court rulings, abuse of power and blocking the functioning of the entire justice system.
In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.
Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.