Indonesia, Turkey Agree to Boost Counter-Terrorism, Defense Ties

Tia Asmara and Zahara Tiba
170707-JOKOWI-620.jpg Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo walk past an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential complex in Ankara, July 6, 2017.

Indonesia and Turkey agreed to bolster bilateral counter-terror cooperation and defense ties during President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Ankara, officials said Friday.

The two nations also agreed to develop a high-tech system for sharing intelligence to curb terrorism and help prevent foreign militants from crossing international borders, according to a statement sent to BenarNews by officials at Indonesia’s Presidential Palace.

Jokowi, the leader of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, made the state visit in Ankara before attending the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. He met Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

Fighting terrorism was no longer one country’s issue, the two leaders said during a joint news conference in the Turkish capital.

“Indonesia and Turkey have agreed to improve efforts in anticipating the infiltration of foreign terrorist fighters through cooperation in intelligence sharing,” Widodo told the news conference, according to the statement released on Friday by the Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau in Jakarta.

Erdogan said he discussed various counter-terror efforts with Widodo, “including cooperation in defense system and sharing ideas.”

“We have agreed on those important steps for the sake of both nations,” Erdogan said, according to the statement.

Indonesians deported

The two presidents met a day after Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that Turkish authorities had caught about 300 Indonesians, from 2015 to early 2017, while they were trying to cross into Syria via Turkey to join the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

All of the Indonesians have been deported from Turkey, the ministry said. It said no charges could be pressed against the deportees because there was no law prohibiting Indonesians from crossing borders while allegedly planning to join militants in Syria.

Indonesia announced the deportations as U.S.-backed Syrian forces inched closer to the heart of the extremist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa.

Well-educated Indonesians were among those who have been deported from Turkey this year. Upon their return from Turkey, the deportees usually receive guidance on the country’s ideology of Pancasila, Indonesia’s state philosophy that emphasizes national unity and pluralism, and how to integrate themselves back into their communities.

On Wednesday, Agung Sampurno, a spokespesman for Jakarta’s Directorate General of Immigration, said officials were challenged in identifying Indonesians returning from Syria and other conflict zones.

“The problem is there is no direct flight. They must transit in a third country, including Malaysia, before flying back here,” Agung told reporters.

“When they transit in the third country, their whereabouts remain unknown. It can only be identified when there is intelligence shared by the Turkish or Syrian government,” he said.

Agung said Indonesians returning from Syria and Turkey were classified under the high-risk category, which means their personal data cannot be shared with the public.

“It’s part of anticipation, because no one can guarantee that any of their family members are not involved. If their data is made public, they might disappear,” he said.

As many as 83 Indonesians with alleged links to IS were on a wanted list of 243 people circulated by the national police, the immigration department said.

The agency said it had stopped hundreds of suspected foreign militants – including 127 from Afghanistan and 40 from the Philippines  – from entering Indonesia.

Thousands of suspects expelled from Turkey

At Thursday’s meeting between the two presidents, Erdogan revealed that Turkey had deported 5,000 suspected terrorists, according to a report by Anadolu, the official Turkish News agency

During Widodo’s visit, Turkey’s leading defense companies Aselsan and Turkish Aerospace Industries also signed a deal with Indonesia’s PT Dirgantara and PT Len to collaborate on defense products, Anadolu said.

Widodo, according to the statement from Jakarta, appreciated the deal signed by both nations to produce a medium-size tank, known as KAPLAN MT, a prototype of which was unveiled during the 13th International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul on May 9.

Other details about the deal were not disclosed.

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