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Lankan PM Wickremesinghe in Maldives to step up bilateral ties; chair Indian Ocean Conference

Lankan PM Wickremesinghe in Maldives to step up bilateral ties; chair Indian Ocean Conference

Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is in Maldives on an official visit where he would meet the nation's President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to discuss ways to boost bilateral ties and also chair the 4th Indian Ocean Conference, officials said on Monday.

Wickremesinghe's visit to Maldives comes amidst an internal struggle in his United National Party (UNP) over the naming of party's presidential candidate .

"The two leaders will engage in discussions relating to all aspects of the bilateral relationship to explore new areas of cooperation as well as exchange views on regional and global affairs which are of mutual interest," officials said.

During the visit, Wickremesinghe will also chair the fourth Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) 2019 to be held on September 3 and 4 at the Paradise Island Resort.

The conference, which is being organised by the India Foundation in association with the Maldives Government and the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, would be based on the theme "Securing the Indian Ocean Region: Traditional and Non-Traditional Challenges".

The conference will deliberate on developing effective regional institutional mechanism for implementation of prevailing norms and rules.

Wickremesinghe's visit to Maldives comes amidst an internal struggle in his United National Party (UNP) over the naming of party's presidential candidate.

His deputy Sajith Premadasa has launched a campaign to win the coveted position to face the main opposition rival Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe's bid to form a grand political alliance came a cropper due to the campaign mounted by Premadasa who is being bolstered by the backing from some of Wickremesinghe's key allies in the party.

The Premadasa faction wants the naming of the candidate before forming the broader alliance.

The party's official stance has been that candidate could only be named after the official declaration of the election by the independent elections body.

The election chief Mahinda Deshapriya would be officially expected to empower to make preparations after September 10.

The election must be held before December 8.

Sri Lanka has been wracked by political divisions since an unprecedented constitutional crisis last year, when President Sirisena sacked UNP leader and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe was reinstated in December after the intervention of the Supreme Court, but the government remains deeply divided.

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