David Reimer, Ambassador of the United States: “We did not threaten to sink any boat”

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David Reimer, Ambassador of the United States to Mauritius.

David Reimer, Ambassador of the United States to Mauritius.

The elections are currently underway in the US. When will we finally know whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States?

That’s a good question. The results are still very, very close and there are five key states where counting is still going on. Those results will be coming in within a day or two, so we should have a good idea by the end of the week. It won’t be official until the Electoral College decides but by the end of the week we should have some indication of who won.

Our Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has said that following the verdict at the International Court of Justice and the decision of the Mauritian government to send a boat to the Chagos, the US threatened to sink it. Did you make such a threat?

I have to say that we have a positive relationship with Mauritius. I was very surprised when I heard him say that. I have had many private discussions with the prime minister on the Chagos and I generally don’t discuss what was discussed privately with the Mauritian government, which is why I was surprised that the prime minister went public about this. These are private, confidential discussions. But since the prime minister has decided to go public first, I think we need to be clear about all this.  All I can say is that what the prime minister said was a mischaracterization of what was said. We never threatened him nor did we ever threaten to sink any boat.

Then why did the prime minister say what he did?

I don’t know why the prime minister decided to go public and say what he did. In general, other than this issue, we have a good, strong bilateral relationship. We have strong economic ties and Mauritian exports a lot to the US and the American Chamber of Commerce is very active in Mauritius. Why did the prime minister say that? I think you will have to ask him.

This is not the first time that a Mauritian government is accusing the US of threatening it. In the past, the Mauritian government has accused both the US and the UK of issuing verbal threats over this issue.

We can have disagreements and differences of opinion but that does not mean that anybody is giving out threats.

Mauritius has not abandoned the idea of sending a boat to the Chagos. What would the US do if the Mauritian government decided to send the boat?

It is true that the Mauritian government has not disavowed the idea of sending a boat there. At the same time, we have not seen any actions taken by the Mauritian government to do such a thing nor have we communicated with the Mauritian government about such a step. If it were to take place, it would an issue of deep, deep concern to the United States.

This entire dispute is about the Chagos. All Mauritian governments since 2004 have agreed to keep the US base on Diego Garcia and the current government has even offered to give a 99-year lease for the US base, much longer than the period until 2036 that the UK has given. What’s stopping the US from cutting a deal with Mauritius?

One simple thing: Diego Garcia does not belong to the US, it’s not US but UK territory. That is something that will have to be dealt with, with the UK. The dispute over the Chagos should be dealt with between Mauritius and the UK first. This is something that we have repeatedly told Mauritian governments.

Not according to the United Nations, it’s General Assembly called for the UK to leave the Chagos by November last year and the International Court of Justice said that the Chagos belongs to Mauritius. Aren’t you a little diplomatically isolated internationally on this?

As you well know the International Court of Justice gave a non-binding, advisory opinion. The US did get some support, but a lot of countries also abstained from the vote at the UN, a fact that the Mauritian government does not mention. Once again, anything to do with the Chagos will have to be negotiated with the UK.
The US has elevated its travel advisory to Mauritius to level 3 asking travelers to reconsider traveling to Mauritius because of Covid-19. We had our last locally transmitted case back in April and it comes just when the dispute over the Chagos is getting more bitter with the Mauritian government calling the US and UK ‘hypocrites’ and now talking about threats. Is this retaliation?

The people who put together this travel advisory probably have never even heard of the Chagos. It’s put together using algorithms by a group of scientists and mathematicians using the data available from around the globe. We have no part whatsoever in this decision. At the time when the travel advisory was being drawn up, there were 40 or so cases in Mauritius so that’s probably why the advisory was put in place.

So when it will be revised again?

It’s continually being revised. I believe these advisories are revised every month.

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