No possibility of GMR return in airport project: Maldives Prez

Maldives has ruled out any possibility of return of Indian infrastructure giant GMR in the over $500-million Male airport project but said it was welcome to participate in other ventures in the island nation.

Asserting that Maldives has nothing against GMR, newly- elected Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen said his administration was committed to resolve the dispute with the Indian firm amicably. The President has already talked about a out-of-court settlement in the matter.

"I am not saying we are saying no to GMR. What I am saying is total management of the airport is far too important for Maldivian Government (to hand over). We have nothing against GMR or any Indian company. It is just that the international airport is far too important for us, commercially and also from security point of view," Yameen told PTI in a recent interview here.

He added that "the total operation of our airport will probably not go to any foreign party. Probably not even go to a Maldivian company. It will be undertaken by the Maldives Airport Company, a 100 per cent government company."

The President, who was recently here and held a series of meeting with the top leadership, said the Indian firm was free to participate in other projects in Maldives.

"I have assured the Indian authorities and GMR that while this issue is pending issue in arbitration, there is no reason why we cannot try to mutually resolve it outside the court system. GMR has kindly agreed to look into it. My administration is committed to resolve this amicably outside arbitration," he said.

Asked when the process for out of court settlement of the dispute will begin, he said, "It has started already started".

Under the contract signed in 2010, GMR was to modernise and operate the Male International Airport for 25 years but the contract was unilaterally terminated 14 months back by the then President Mohamed Waheed following political and domestic pressure.

The President said the contract with GMR was signed against the laid down norms for such projects and that it was a "unilateral decision" by the then government headed by President Mohamed Nasheed to approve the deal.

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