WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is warning the Indian Ocean island nation of Maldives of possible sanctions on key officials if upcoming elections are not free and fair and the country does not reverse democratic backsliding.

The State Department said Thursday the Sept. 23 presidential election, the release of political prisoners and an end to executive interference in the courts and parliament are "of critical importance" to Maldives' future. Absent a return to a democratic path, the U.S. will consider sanctions on Maldivians who undermine democracy, rule of law and the electoral process, it said.

Maldives, known for its luxury resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. However, the country has lost much of its gains since current President Yameen Abdul Gayoom was elected in 2013.