A letter penned by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to the Mauritian Prime Minister has been leaked on social media. The letter confirms that the Maldives will shift its stance to back Mauritius at the upcoming United Nations vote on Chagos’ sovereignty, but debunks opposition claims that it was done so by giving up territorial waters of the Maldives. 

The letter’s leak is particularly significant, given that its existence was already shrouded in controversy. Opposition parties had accused the Maldivian government of clandestinely altering its stance on the issue. However, upon its leak, the document verified by the President’s Office Spokesperson, Miuvaan Mohamed, seems to refute these allegations. The spokesperson further mentioned that an investigation is underway to ascertain the source of the leak.

The territorial dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over the Chagos Archipelago has been simmering since Mauritius gained independence in 1968. The Maldives became entangled in this international quagmire as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) overlaps with that of Chagos. In August 2019, Mauritius escalated the dispute by lodging a case with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The president’s leaked letter clarifies that the change in vote at the United Nations would be “entirely without prejudice to the legal position taken by the Maldives” in ITLOS and during the 2010 Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) submission. 

This stands in alignment with the ITLOS ruling on April 28th, which concluded that the conflicting EEZ between Mauritius and the Maldives should be divided between the two nations using the equidistance formula.

The government claims that this resolution means the Maldives loses no maritime territory, but the opposition believes Maldives should be entitled to the entire 95,563 square kilometres of disputed maritime territory. 

It was for this issue that President Solih did not support Mauritius initially, citing the Mauritian government’s objection to the Maldives’ July 2010 submission to the CLCS.