Indonesian relations reach new heights

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia / Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), H.E. Agus Maftuh Abegebriel

Saudi - Indonesian Relations

1. There was 46 years between the first visit by a Saudi King to Indonesia, King Faisal in 1970 and that of King Salman in 2017. Saudi–Indonesian relations have seen significant development in that time. How would you describe the current relations between the two countries? Let's talk a little bit of King Salman’s visit in 2017 as the first Saudi king to visit Indonesia in 46 years; what is its significance and how important is it?

The Mega Historic Visit

The two brotherly countries have very strong bilateral relations especially in the last three years following the exchange of visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Saudi Arabia in 2015 and the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to Indonesia in 2017.

2017 is the year of special importance in the history of Indonesia-Saudi diplomatic relations since their establishment 67 years ago. With the King Salman’s visit to Indonesia, we witnessed an unprecedented intensity of interaction and collaboration between governments, business communities and peoples of the two countries. Never before, has there been so frequent exchange of high level visits. Never before, have there been so many cooperation agreements signed only in one year; 11 agreements in various sectors.

With so many achievements in 2017, the two brotherly countries’ bilateral relations have just undoubtedly reached new heights. In fact, we coined the term SAUNESIA or Saudi–Indonesia to reflect and cement the new relation.

One of big tasks ahead of both sides would be to ensure effective implementation of the agreements signed during the King Salman’s visit as well at other occasions. Both sides will also have to start preparing the elevated first ministerial joint commission meeting scheduled in 2018 to evaluate progress and address challenges in bilateral relations.

Haj Cooperation

Another important milestone in the development of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia is the Haj cooperation, ranging among others from the 10,000 additional quota since last year (the largest in the world) to improved accommodation to the more recent Makkah Route Initiative. Particular on the Makkah Route Initiative, for the first time in history, Indonesian pilgrims can complete the entry process into Saudi Arabia in Indonesia through its dedicated airports. Thus, cutting off several procedures which otherwise would normally require specific amount of time that had to be done on their arrivals in Saudi Arabia.

The Indonesian government praised the Makkah Route Initiative carried out under the directive of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Crown Prince in the framework of Saudi National Transformation Program 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030 to better serving and facilitating the pilgrims.

Haj Quota

For most Indonesian people, Haj means going to Saudi Arabia. Thus, this country always has special place in our hearts; Saudi Arabia is like our second home. Nevertheless, Indonesians have to wait for 25–30 years before finally being able to come to their second home to perform Haj. Currently, Saudi Arabia allocates 221,000 Haj quota for Indonesia. Indeed, the largest quota in the world, yet with strengthened cooperation there are ample opportunities to be increased.

Under this backdrop, the Indonesian government is closely working with the government of Saudi Arabia to make possible another additional Haj quota of 30,000, making it a total of 250,000 for Indonesians. Of course, details arrangements have to be made, particularly accommodations in Mina. To this end, the Indonesian government stands ready to actively contribute and further enhance the excellent existing Haj cooperation with the government of Saudi Arabia.

2. What is the long-term view of Indonesia with respect to Saudi 'Vision 2030', and what are the areas of cooperation between the two countries?

Indonesia praises the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to comprehensively transform economic and social condition of the country and its society. Transformation is not an easy process and always challenging, however, it is a necessary step to do to achieve better result in the long term. Under the guidance and leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Indonesia believes that the transformation will run smoothly and successfully.

Indonesia fully supports the programs implemented by the Kingdom to achieve of Saudi Vision 2030. It provides a platform for expanding and deepening bilateral cooperation between two countries. There are many areas of mutually beneficial cooperation that could be explored.

Indonesia has expertise and experiences in the following sectors that could be offered to Saudi Arabia such as:

- Development private sector, especially small and medium company, to improve their contribution in the national economy;

- Development of tourism and hospitality sector, especially in the field of training the worker and joint promotion;

- Women and youth empowerment to improve their role in society and economy; and

- Cultural performance and exhibition exchanges.

Indonesia is also providing the opportunity for the Saudi government as well as its private sectors to invest in Indonesia. In line with one of Saudi Vision targets to increase the asset of Public Investment Fund (PIF) to $2 trillion in 2030, Indonesia offers investment opportunities. Last year, Indonesia was ranked among the top five most promising host country for investment in the world by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Other attractive accolade is the positive credits rating from international agencies, inter alia, Baa2/Stable from Moody’s (13 April 2018), BBB/Stable from Fitch Rating (20 October 2017), BBB/Stable from Japan Credit Rating Agency (9 March 2017), and BBB-/Stable from Standard and Poor’s (19 May 2017).

3. There were talks of a Saudi-Indonesian alliance to build the largest energy complex in Indonesia; what are the latest economic results of this project? Have the location and the total value of the project been set? And what is the significance of this project in supporting the long-term economic partnership between the two countries and enhancing their cooperation in the field of energy?

Indonesian State-owned Oil Company, PT Pertamina and Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) signed $6 billion Joint Venture Development Agreement (JVDA) to develop Pertamina’s Refinery in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia. Cilacap refinery development is part of the Refinery Development Master Plan Pertamina (RDMP) to meet national energy demand. Aside from Cilacap, the RDMP is rolled out in the refineries of East Kalimantan’s Balikpapan, Riau’s Dumai and West Java’s Balongan.

The agreement was signed on 22 December 2016 by Pertamina President Director Dwi Soetjipto and Saudi Aramco President Director Amin Naseer at Pertamina’s Headquarter in Jakarta. Pertamina and Saudi Aramco will hold 55% and 45% stakes respectively.

Under this agreement, both sides agreed to boost the capacity of Cilacap Refinery which is the largest in Indonesia. At present, Cilacap refinery’s capacity is 348,000 barrel per day (bpd) and will be stepped up to 400,000 bpd. Saudi Aramco will supply the crude oil for the refinery. To date, the upgraded refinery configuration and Joint Basic Engineering Design work has been completed. The project startup is targeted in 2021.

This project in the long run will be economically beneficial for both sides. For Indonesia, this project is important to meet its energy security, whilst for Saudi Aramco, it is to secure its market by sustainably supplying oil to the refinery.

4. Official statistics show that the trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia reached $5.2 billion in 2015; how can this figure be improved on, in light of Saudi ‘Vision 2030’?

Based on Indonesian Ministry of Trade reports, bilateral trade between Indonesia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is fluctuating, at least in the last three years. In 2015 and 2016, the trade reached $5.4 billion and $4.05 billion respectively. In 2017 the trade has a slight increase to $4.5 billion. For these three years, Saudi Arabia enjoyed surplus because of the export of oil and gas to Indonesia. The surpluses are $1.36 billion in 2015, $1.39 billion in 2016, and $1.78 billion in 2017.

Nevertheless, on the non-oil and gas commodity, Indonesia enjoyed surplus in the last three years, namely $1.38 billion in 2015, $627.5 million in 2016, and $569.6 in 2017. Indonesian main export commodity to Saudi Arabia are Motor cars and other motor vehicles as well as its parts, Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal, Paper and paperboard; palm oil, Prepared or preserved fish. Saudi Arabia export to Indonesia besides oil and gas are organic chemical, plastic, aluminum, iron and steel, and miscellaneous article of base metal.

According to abovementioned statistics, trade relation between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are complementing each other; Saudi Arabia with its oil and gas export and Indonesia with its non-oil and gas commodity. This mutually beneficial trade cooperation should be improved in the future. Indonesia expects a gradual and steady increase in the trade value with Saudi Arabia and at the same time minimizes the trade gap between two countries.

To improve bilateral trade, both countries have signed an agreement during the visit of King Salman to Indonesia on 1 March 2017. The Cooperation Program in the Field of Commerce between the Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Indonesia and the Ministry of Commerce and investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was signed by the Minister of Trade of the Republic of Indonesia and the Minister of Commerce and Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Currently the implementation of this agreement is ongoing.

Regional Issues

5. With regards to political relations between the two countries, in your opinion, where do Riyadh and Jakarta agree in terms of their political stance in the current regional crises?

The political stance conformity between the two brotherly countries reflected in their positions on a number of regional issues such as Palestine crisis. Indonesia and Saudi Arabia support the two-state solution under international law. Jakarta and Riyadh are constantly striving to restore the centrality of the Palestinian issue in the international world and continue to provide assistance to the Palestinians, politically as well as humanitarian aspect.


6. In terms of security, how would you assess the military cooperation between the two countries, and how can they be strengthened and developed through the Military Manufacturing Plan in Saudi ‘Vision 2030’?

Much progress already made in implementing defense cooperation agreement signed in 2014. For Indonesia the agreement which covers training, education, and defense industry cooperation, is crucial as it is the first of its sort that Indonesia signed with a Middle Eastern country.

Indonesia welcomes a growing interest of Saudi Arabia to learn lessons from Indonesia’s experience in developing defense industries. It stands ready to cooperate in the area of defense technology, including joint research, production, marketing and technology transfer, in order to support localization of Saudi Arabia defense industries in line with Vision 2030.

7. Since the 2002 Bali Bombings, in which 202 mostly foreigner civilians were killed, the Indonesian government has played a major role in pursuing terrorist cells. Being the largest Muslim country in East Asia and having suffered from terrorism, don’t you think it might be in Indonesia’s interest to join the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition? What is the reason for Indonesia not having joined the coalition yet?

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are committed to combatting terrorism and extremism. However, we may have different approach in tackling these issues. Indonesia has no intention of joining the military alliance, as it prioritizes the use of soft power in its war on terror which is proven far more effective than military action. This includes promoting Islam as gracious and full of compassion. Moreover, as governed by its Constitution, Indonesia only sends international military missions or troops under peace keeping operations scheme as such that of the United Nations.

We are deeply heartened by the Saudi Arabia’s plan as stated by Crown Prince, to bring Islamic practices in Saudi Arabia back to its origins, a moderate and balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples. This has further convinced many in Indonesia that both countries can be partners in advancing Islam as Rahmatan lil Alamin (a blessing to all). Indonesia is ready to be a reliable partner for Saudi to promote moderate Islam. At the OIC level, both countries could make joint efforts to intensify and concert the Islamic world's efforts to confront the extremism, reject sectarianism and move the Islamic world towards a better future in line of objectives and purposes of the OIC.

8. In general, what is the Indonesian government's view of terrorism? What steps is it taking to eliminate it? And to what extent has the Indonesian government benefited from the Saudi experience in the combat against terrorism?

Indonesia’s basic policy

Indonesia is of the view that terrorism poses a serious threat to international peace and security as well violates the most fundamental of all human rights, especially the right to life, personal security and properly. On this principle, therefore, Indonesia strongly condemns every act of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, irrespective of its motivation, perpetrators and victims, and reiterates that it must be firmly suppressed.

Such suppression, however, should be conducted without violating human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is Indonesia’s firm belief that the denial of human rights while countering terrorism would only foment more violent radicalism and incite more acts of terrorism. Indonesia rejects to return to the heavy-handedness of authoritarianism in response to the terrorist attacks.

Indonesia adopted a comprehensive approach to addressing terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism including its root causes. It is a seamless combination of using hard and soft powers: Strengthening law enforcement and rule of law while at the same time promoting prevention efforts by fostering engagement with the communities through education, empowerment as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue in order to spread the value of peace, tolerance, co-existence, and living in harmony.

Steps to eliminate terrorism

a. Strengthening national legislation: One of key components of an effective strategy of combating terrorism is the strengthening of the legal infrastructure. In this connection, Indonesia has been pursuing a multi-track approach, namely drafting and promulgation of national laws and the ratification of, or accession to, the relevant international conventions. We also believe that the regulation must be nimble to cope with the evolution of terrorist manifestation. Last May, Indonesia had finished revising its Law of Anti-Terrorism in order to address new challenges of terrorism such as FTF Returnees and Re-locators, possibility of terrorist using weapon of mass destruction, including how to treat victims of terrorism.

b. Developing national institutional capacity: In 2010, through the presidential decree No. 46/2010, a new counter terrorism body was created namely National Counter Terrorism Agency with the tasks: formulating national policies, strategy and program in counter terrorism and coordinating efforts of relevant government bodies in implementing national policies. By now, the Agency is coordinating 36 ministries and agencies.

c. Strengthening law Enforcement: In 2017, approximately 170 terrorist suspects were arrested and around 70 have been prosecuted. The Indonesian National Counter Terrorism Agency (NCTA) has achieved a great success through de-radicalization and reintegration program. The objective of the program is to win hearts and minds of terrorist suspects, terrorist prisoners, and sympathizers of terrorist organization and in turn change their behavior. We have de-radicalized over one thousand six hundred extremists, in over 72 (seventy two) prisons in Indonesia. For Indonesia, de-radicalization program, provided by NCTA and Correction System, is a key element for reintegrating terrorist inmates to the society.

d. Intensifying international cooperation: At the multilateral level, Indonesia is party to many international counter-terrorism instruments including member of Advisory Board of UN Counter-Terrorism Center (AB UNCCT) until 2021, while at the regional level, Indonesia together with other ASEAN countries signed the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism which serves as an umbrella agreement on regional cooperation in preventing, combating and suppressing terrorism in all forms and manifestations.


9. What is your view of the Syrian Crisis? What is the general view of Jakarta regarding a potential resolution of the Syrian situation in the future?

Indonesia stresses the importance of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Syria through negotiations and peaceful means within the framework of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Indonesia expresses its concern about the security, safety, and the wellbeing of civilians, most particularly that of women and children. Indonesia strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by any parties in Syria and called on all parties to exercise restraint to prevent an escalation of the situation.


10. How does Indonesia view the current situation in Yemen?

Indonesia is of the view that conflict in Yemen is an internal affair of the country. In line with the principle of neutrality in dealing with regional conflicts, Indonesia will not interfere in domestic affairs of Yemen. Indonesia and Yemen are committed to maintain friendly relations. As a symbol of the friendship, both countries continue to have diplomatic relations.

Indonesia is deeply concerned with the prolonged conflict in Yemen and calls on all concerned parties to protect civilian people affected by food crisis, clean water and fuel shortage. Indonesia stresses the importance of resolving the conflict through more inclusive peace negotiations.


11. How do you assess the status quo in Libya? And how does Indonesia view the resolution of the crisis there?

Indonesia supports the government of National Accord and hope that the reconciliation process and political dialogue will be successfully accomplished in the very near future. Indonesia fully hopes Prime Minister Fayev Al-Sarraj will restore the stability, security and peace in Libya and situation conducive to establishing a democratic government.

Indonesia firmly believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister Fayey Al-Sarraj bilateral relations of the two countries will be stronger and more solid in the coming years. Indonesia stands ready to provide capacity building to Libya in cooperation with Institute for Peace and Democracy di Bali, Indonesia.


12. How do you view the developments in the Palestinian issue, and how does Indonesia view the political settlement in Palestine?

Indonesia is a strong supporter of the Palestinian Cause. Indonesia envisages the undue establishment an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its Capital, living side by side with its neighbors in peace based on international law and parameters set out under UN resolutions. It stresses the importance of impartiality of the international community in resolving the Palestinian issue and pushing for the re-initiation of the peace process.

In light of that, Indonesia views with grave concern the latest development of events which have further deteriorate the prospects toward peaceful resolution of the near one-century question. The current position of the United States concerning the status of Jerusalem, including the relocation of its Embassy, as well as the Israelis’ aggressive emphasis on Israel’s identity as a Jewish state (including through the recent parliamentary decision), have all but shaped the whole situation into increasingly untenable condition toward just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Indonesia is of the view that unity is vital, and collective effort is a necessity. The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is a must and shall be nurtured. Therefore, Indonesia welcomes the landmark agreement reached by the leaders of Hamas and Fatah, under the assistance of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Indonesia believes that this long-awaited agreement is a significant way forward to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, and for reaching the two-state solution.

The agreement is a positive development. But challenges ahead are still enormous. Members of international community must all contribute in building the state of Palestine including developing its economy and strengthening its government institutions.

Alongside humanitarian assistance we need to support the reconstruction efforts, as well as economic recovery though more development assistance. We need to further enhance financial assistance and capacity building programs.

On our part, Indonesia has been a partner in development for Palestine for several decades. The capacity building programs are implemented in bilateral, regional, inter-regional, and multilateral frameworks, based on government’s commitment and demand driven from Palestine.

As part of our support for economic empowerment program for Palestine, in 2018, Indonesian Foreign Ministry will continue to provide training for Palestinian officials and citizens in various fields of expertise and vocational skills

Specifically, in the field of economy, Indonesia has applied “zero tariff” for various Palestinian products entering the Indonesian market. This policy is aimed to enable trade facilitation for Palestine to enhance the social and economic livelihood of the Palestinians amidst their struggle for national independence.

Indonesia supports the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to provide relief for Palestinian refugees, as well as increasing the involvement of the international community to assist the Palestinian refugees.


13. How does Jakarta regard the Iranian influence in the Middle East, and what is the Indonesian policy towards Iranian expansion?

Indonesia sees Middle East Crisis is a very complex and multi-dimensional issue. We recall the visit of the Indonesian Foreign Minister to Riyadh and Tehran in January 2016, conveying peace messages from Indonesian President to the leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In his messages, President Jokowi emphasizes the importance of stability and peace in the region, the importance of a good relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Indonesia is willing to help mend the ties between the two countries. Indonesia has always been careful to maintain its neutrality.

As incoming non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Indonesia is strongly committed to pushing efforts to strengthen world stability and peace through habit of dialogue to build mutual understanding.

In this regard, Indonesia calls on all concerned parties in the Middle East to promote dialog to achieved peace and stability in the region.

Gulf – Indonesian Relations

14. What is your general view of Indonesian relations with the GCC member states, and what are the key areas of trade and economic cooperation?

With regard to trade and economic cooperation, Indonesia and GCC has a strong relation. In term of trade, Indonesia and GCC countries complement each other. According to the Indonesian Ministry of Trade Report, in 2017 the total trade between Indonesia and GCC amounts to $10.3 billion. There remains a large trade gap, however, between Indonesia and GCC; Indonesian Exports and Imports of $3.billion and $6.8 billion separately. This trade gap is heavily influenced by the oil and gas and the non-oil and gas commodities differences.

Indonesia firmly believes that there are still many untapped economic opportunities, way beyond a simple trade value between Indonesia and GCC. Of course, better access market is necessary and should be treated as the initial step. For instance, Indonesia is a bridge for GCC countries to enter Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) market that consist of 650 million population in total. But then again, economic opportunities are endless between Indonesia and GCC.

As such, Indonesia is currently proposing to have Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with GCC countries. CEPA covers many economic sectors, such as trade in services, trade facilitation, investment protection, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), etc. So far Indonesia has concluded CEPA agreements with Japan and Chile. Indonesia is also in the process of CEPA negotiation with several countries, such as European Union, Australia, and Korea.

Indonesia reiterates the notion that economic potential between Indonesia and GCC is beyond trade. There are so many economic sectors to cooperate with and one of them is the investment sector. As mentioned before, Indonesia is one of the best destination countries for investment in the world that provides a lot of opportunities for GCC countries, particularly for those who needs to diversify their economy beyond oil and gas. With the fact that the number of GCC investment in Indonesia is still low, we expect a significant change when the CEPA is concluded between Indonesia and GCC in the near future.

15. What is the volume of trade exchange between Indonesia and the GCC member states?

According to Indonesian Ministry of Trade Report, the volume of trade exchange between Indonesia and GCC last year amounts to $10.3 billion. GCC enjoyed surplus of $3.3 billion from its oil and gas commodity.

16. During the visit of the Indonesian president to Saudi Arabia, the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Indonesian Foreign Minister signed a declaration of intent to establish a mechanism for strategic dialogue between Indonesia and the GCC member states with a view to bringing views together and achieving common interests, and a joint work plan for the coming period (2016-2020) was discussed. Mr. Ambassador, does Indonesia seek to hold such a strategic dialogue with the GCC member states, and what stage have these talks reached?

The signing of the Declaration of Intent between the Government of Indonesia and the GCC in September 2015 was an important milestone for both parties. Indonesia certainly hopes the follow ups to the declaration could be implemented in quickly. Recently, the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh had a meeting with the General Secretariat of GCC and it was agreed to complete the draft plan of action and prepare a memorandum of understanding between the parties

17. What is the future of Saudi–Indonesian and GCC–Indonesian relations, and how can they be promoted in order to achieve common interests and enhance regional and global security and stability?

We are very optimistic that the cooperation between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia as well as GCC can be enhanced to the best level either in economy, politics or security. Indonesia is looking forward to contributing to the regional and global stability and security. And we see that Saudi Arabia in particular, as well as other GCC countries can be key partners in this regard.