US reaches out to new Maldives leader after upset win against pro-China strongman

Maldivian president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih arrives at an event with supporters in Male, Maldives, on Sept 24, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Monday (Sept 24) congratulated the Maldives' incoming president and called for closer ties after his upset win against the Chinese-backed strongman leader.

"As a fellow democracy, the United States stands ready to work closely with the next Maldivian government to expand cooperation on our shared interests in an independent and prosperous Maldives as well as a free and open Indian Ocean region," a State Department statement said.

The United States congratulated the people of the Indian Ocean archipelago for "their commitment to the democratic process and exceptional level of participation in an election that has ushered in a new chapter in their country's history".

The United States also urged a peaceful transition in the run-up to the inauguration of opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Easing fears of a crisis, President Abdulla Yameen accepted defeat and congratulated Mohamed Solih after the results of Sunday's election became clear.

Yameen has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from China to build infrastructure in the strategically placed, tourism-dependent country, setting up a struggle for influence with regional power India.

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