Maldives govt hails 'victory' after 'avoiding EU sanctions'

Maldives government on Monday described the adoption of a European Union (EU) framework for targeted sanctions against the archipelago as a "victory" for its efforts to avoid sanctions.

The EU on Monday adopted a framework for targeted sanctions including asset freeze and travel ban on key government officials over the worsening human rights and political situation in the archipelago.

Foreign Affairs Council during its sit-down in Brussels adopted the framework for targeted restrictive measures against persons and entities responsible for undermining the rule of law or obstructing an inclusive political solution in the Maldives as well as persons and entities responsible for serious human rights violations.

"This decision makes it possible, if the situation does not improve, to impose a travel ban and an asset freeze on relevant individuals and entities," a statement said.

Maldives fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee who is surprisingly leading a high-level delegation in Brussels has been engaged in talks with top EU officials said only adopting a framework for sanctions was a victory for the government.

"EU hasn't imposed sanctions against the Maldives. That is a victory. It's a victory for the efforts of the government," Shainee told AVAS in a telephone interview.

The minister reiterated that the country's globally well-connected opposition had misinformed the EU over the actual situation in the Maldives.

He added that the government would avoid sanctions as long as the situation in the country does not deteriorate describing the EU framework on sanctions as another "warning" for the embattled government.

The minister added that the opposition had convinced the EU that the Maldives government would not hold the presidential elections later this year to allow incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to forcefully remain in office for a second term.

He assured that the Maldives would hold a free and fair elections in September which would mean that EU would no longer have ground to impose sanctions against the country.

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 self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared 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.

Following the state of emergency, EU's foreign affairs council in February had passed adopted a series of conclusions on the Maldives which also refers to possible targeted measures if the situation does not improve.

In a seven -point resolution introduced and passed unanimously, the EU Parliament called on the EU "to make full use of all instruments at its disposal to promote respect for human rights and democratic principles in the Maldives, including, possibly, the suspension of EU financial assistance to the country pending the resumption of the rule of law and abidance by democratic principles."

The resolution also called on the EU council to introduce targeted measures and sanctions against those undermining human rights and to freeze the assets abroad of certain members of the Maldivian Government and their leading supporters in the Maldivian business community, whilst imposing travel bans on them.

Maldives government has been facing mounting international pressure especially from the US and the West over the contentious jailing of opposition leaders and the restrictions on fundamental rights and liberties.

EU had recently cast doubts over the possibility of holding free and fair presidential elections in the Maldives which has been slated for September 23.