May 18, 2016 / 2:33 PM / in 2 years

Maldives severs diplomatic ties with Iran citing security threats

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Maldives, a staunch supporter of Saudi Arabia, has severed ties with Iran, saying the Islamic Republic’s policy in the Middle East is detrimental to peace and security for the Indian Ocean archipelago, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia in January cut ties with Iran over the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, in a worsening diplomatic crisis between the regional rivals following the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shi‘ite cleric.

“The Maldives believes that the policies that Iranian government pursues in the Middle East ... is detrimental to peace and security in the region, which, in many ways, is also linked to stability, peace and security of the Maldives,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the “irrational adventurism” in foreign policy decisions by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration would have serious repercussions on the security of the Maldives.

”President Yameen is amassing all the world’s contentious issues to the Indian Ocean, with Maldives at the heart of it; clearly disregarding the security and protection of the Maldivian people,” said MDP international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

Since 2013, Saudi Arabia has played an increasing role in the Maldives, which like Saudi has a predominantly Sunni Muslim population, with investments in tourism and funds to build mosques. Saudi established an embassy there last year.

Maldives established diplomatic relations with Shi‘ite Muslim Iran in 1975.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Alison Williams

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