Indonesia, Saudi Arabia Discuss Anti-Terror Efforts, Journalist’s Killing

Tria Dianti
181023-ID-saudi-AP-620.jpg Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (left) and his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, appear at a joint news conference in Jakarta, Oct. 23, 2018.

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia agreed to increase joint efforts against radicalism and terrorism, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Tuesday while calling on the Middle Eastern oil power to investigate the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi thoroughly and transparently.

Retno met with her Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, for bilateral talks as he wrapped up a two-day visit to Jakarta. She said the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) was drafting a memorandum of understanding with the Presidency of State Security, Saudi’s anti-terrorism agency.

“We agreed to increase cooperation in combating radicalism and terrorism in view of the increasing threat of radicalism and terrorism,” Retno said after a meeting with al-Jubeir before he was to leave Jakarta.

Neither side released details of the MOU and an Indonesian official said it was being drafted. The officials did not reveal when the document would be completed and signed.

Meanwhile, Retno expressed concern about the killing of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

“We call for an investigation to be carried out transparently and thoroughly,” Retno said, echoing remarks made by Indonesian President Joko Widodo during his meeting with the Saudi foreign minister on Monday.

Saudi officials initially denied any knowledge of what had happened to the dissident journalist, saying Khashoggi left the consulate after picking up papers for his forthcoming marriage.

Al-Jubeir referred to Khashoggi’s death as murder for the first time on Sunday. Two days earlier, Saudi officials admitted that the Washington Post columnist had died at the consulate, but blamed his killing on a fistfight.

“I emphasized to the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia that he had promised two days ago that he was determined to reveal all the facts,” Retno said.

Al-Jubeir said King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Abdullah bin Salman were committed to ensuring that the investigation is “thorough and complete and that the truth is revealed.”

“Those responsible will be held to account and that procedures and mechanisms are in place to ensure that something like this can never happen again,” he said during a press conference in Jakarta.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that 15 people in three groups had arrived at the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2.

“The information and evidences uncovered so far show that Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered,” Erdogan said, according to news reports. “Covering up such a brutal act would wound the conscience of all mankind.”

Trade and investment talks

In Jakarta, Al-Jubeir said his country was committed to enhancing its relationship with Indonesia.

“We believe the size of trade and investment between our two countries is not commensurate with the size of our respective economies, so we are rolling up our sleeves to try to move toward more investment and more trade,” he said.

Retno recognized those efforts, but said she had concerns.

“Although, there is an increase in cooperation in the investment sector, we also realize that there are some aspects that have not achieved significant progress,” she said, citing a delay in a project involving Saudi oil giant Aramco upgrading the Cilacap refinery in Central Java.

Government officials last year announced that the project, expected to be completed in 2021, was delayed until 2023, according to the Jakarta Post.

In addition, Retno thanked the Saudi government for improving the welfare of about 600,000 Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia.

“We welcome efforts to improve the protection of Indonesian citizens by Saudi Arabia, among others regarding the rules on working hours, minimum wages and respect for workers’ rights,” she said.

Al-Jubeir said he and Retno discussed ways to resolve conflicts in the Islamic world including conflicts tied to Israel.

“We believe in sovereignty of nations and in the rule of law, in the international legal system and we believe in solving conflicts through peaceful means,” he said.

Saudi King Salman met with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during a March 2017 visit to Jakarta and signed 11 MOUs, including some focused on countering world-wide terrorism.

Intelligence sharing

University of Indonesia terrorism analyst Ridlwan Habib said intelligence sharing is a step in the right direction.

“There needs to be an understanding of terrorism networks in both countries,” he said.

Saudi Arabia could learn about a more humane approach in fighting terrorism from Indonesia, Ridlwan said while noting there are ideological differences between terrorists in the two countries.

“The terrorist ideology in Saudi Arabia is more hardline and militant than Indonesia, so maybe to some extent a soft approach won’t be effective,” he said.

Indonesian House member Bobby Rizaldi said the government should be wary of Saudi-funded educational institutions. He pointed out that Aman Abdurrachman, who was sentenced to death in June for masterminding a series of attacks in recent years, was a graduate of the Saudi-funded Islamic and Arabic College of Indonesia in Jakarta.

“Many schools established by Saudi Arabia are influenced by Wahhabism. It is necessary to anticipate creeping radicalization,” he said.

Popular in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism stresses the literal interpretation of the Quran and its followers see other religions, including other strains of Islam, as infidels.


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