The president of Maldives arrived for an “official” visit to “Palestine” on Tuesday without planning a stopover in Israel, underlining the loss of one of Israel’s few friends in the Muslim world, writes Raphael Ahren for the Times of Israel.
President Mohammed Waheed Hassan’s four-day visit includes trips to Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and laid a wreath at the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Tuesday. He is not scheduled to meet any Israeli officials.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said that Israel has been kept informed of the visit and coordinated with the Maldivians for security needs. “We’re perfectly happy for them to have an active relationship with the Palestinians,” he said.
The Republic of Maldives, a tiny island nation southwest of Sri Lanka, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, yet until two years ago bilateral ties were growing increasingly cordial.
In February 2012, the government in Malé was deposed in what observers called a political coup. Mohamed Nasheed — the country’s first democratically elected president, known for his pro-Israel stance — was ousted and replaced by Islamist hardliners around Waheed Hassan.