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Indonesia’s Middle East peace diplomacy

Updated On: Oct 26, 2007

With the domestic political and economic situation in Indonesia not showing much improvement, the Indonesian government is turning to foreign affairs to bolster its support.

It is especially keen to be seen to play an important role in the Middle East crisis.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been travelling around major Muslim countries in Southeast Asia to garner support for an upcoming Middle East peace talks. He said on Monday (22 October), “We are now in intensive communication with Israel with the hope that we can form a document that is acceptable by both sides and by the international community.”  Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have put together a joint document for a peace conference to be held before the end of the year in AnnapolisMaryland.

In a meeting with Abbas at the State Palace on Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia along with South Africa and other Asian countries would arrange a conference for capacity-building for the Palestinians. This is in addition to the peace negotiations to be held in AnnapolisIndonesia has reiterated that a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict must include Hamas. It has also signed several memorandums of understanding to help in the development of human resources in Palestine as well as a sister-city agreement between Jakarta and East Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said on Tuesday (23 October) that the Annapolis conference would be a good beginning to make a ‘roadmap’ for the birth of an independent Palestinian state.

However, Indonesia’s desire to play a greater role in the Middle East situation has been criticised by Hamas. Hamas criticised Indonesia’s agreement to join the Middle East meeting, saying, “Heading to the summit of concession next month and joining it is just a free normalisation with the occupation forces.” Unlike Abbas’ Fatah faction, Hamas enjoys widespread domestic support in Palestine and has gained control of the Gaza Strip.

The expectations for the meeting in Annapolis are low. The US House committee chairman Tom Lantos told Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice that the meeting could prove ‘ill-advised’ if Arab leaders did not more than simply show up. More crucially, Lantos pointed out that, both Olmert and Abbas were too weak politically to achieve a breakthrough.  (25 October 2007)

Sources:

Religious leaders to help in Fatah-Hamas row (Jakarta Post, 24 October 2007)

Hamas slams Indonesia peace move (Deutsche Presse Agency, 24 October 2007)

Rice defends upcoming Mideast conference (Agence France Presse, 24 October 2007)

RI vows to do more for Middle Easttalks (Jakarta Post, 23 October 2007)

Abbas hopeful of peace deal with Israelby next year (Straits Times, 23 October 2007)

INT'L CONFERENCE ON PALESTINEGOOD BEGINNING : RI FOREIGN MINISTER (Antara, 23 October 2007)

The long road to Annapolis (Jakarta Post, 23 October 2007