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Indonesia and Malaysia pushing for Middle East Peace

Updated On: Apr 10, 2007

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country and Malaysia, the chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are playing active role to push Middle East peace.

The Indonesias government together with the country’s two largest Islamic organizations, the Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah  hosted a conference of Islamic religious leaders from Middle East to find a way of contributing to peace in Middle East, and particularly Iraq.  For two days at the Bogor Presidential Palace on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3 and 4, 2007, the Indonesian government hoped to create a common view among Shiite and Sunni leaders in their bid to overcome the sectarian conflict in Iraq. Presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal added that the meeting would be held to bridge the differences between Shiite and Sunni groups so that they can coexist in perfect harmony.

The conference resulted in the “Bogor Declaration” which urged the US-led coalition forces to leave Iraq soon and called for their replacement by peace-keeping forces from OIC. To realize the plan to deploy Muslim forces in Iraq, a monitoring committee must be formed among Middle Eastern countries, includingIndonesia.The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) welcomes the Bogor Declaration of the international conference of Islamic leaders and ulama for reconciliation in Iraq, including Indonesia`s proposal to deploy troops from Islamic countries in the conflict-torn country. Muslim Shi`ite and Sunni clerics from many countries agreed to work toward reconciliation in Iraq and urged the United States to leave Iraq immediately. However, they did not set a timeline for a U.S.withdrawal from Iraq.

The Bogor declaration is regarded as a step forward in the efforts to make a new breakthrough toward a solution of the conflict in Iraq. Nine countries, IranIraq,JordanLebanonEgyptSyriaPakistanMalaysia and host Indonesia, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference are represented, although none of Iraq's key Islamic leaders attended.  A Jakarta Post report commented that the conference “lost” some of its prestige and significance given the absence of Iraqi and Iranian ulema.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said he hoped that the conference would serve as a preliminary step towards his country's greater engagement in Iraq. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is keen to see Indonesia take a bigger role in global issues and in particular in the Middle East.  Apart from the Bogor Conference, the Indonesian government was scheduled to host a meeting between the Hamas group in Palestine and the European Union and the United States in late April, as an effort to call on western countries to accept a new government of Palestine.

Indonesian government has the intention to maximize its role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council by working harder to offer solutions to every conflict in the world, including that in the Middle East and Iraq. As a country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia hoped to be able to support the peace process in the Middle East.  However it has been harshly criticized over its decision to support UNSC resolution on Iran. A Jakarta Post commentary also wondered if Indonesia whose citizens mostly embrace the Sunni branch of Islam have enough “Islamic influence among the Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the mainly Shite nations”.  

Meanwhile, Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi visited Saudi in late March to revive the Arab proposal to offer recognition of Israel in exchange for the Jewish state’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territories, occupied since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, and to settle the refugee question. In its capacity as current OIC Chairman,Malaysia has been very active in the Arab Peace Initiative, agreed at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League. The Malaysian PM had also discussed developments inIraqLebanon and Iran’s nuclear programme. (9 April 2007)

Sources:

RI’s lead role in Iraq resolution is put to test (Jakarta Post, 9 April 2007)

OIC welcomes RI initiative to form coalition of Muslim troops for Iraq (Antara, 6 April 2007)

Clerics end Bogor meet with pledge of unity (Jakarta Post, 5 April 2007)

President Yudhoyono asks Islamic leaders to seek Iraq peace (Antara, 4 April 2007)

Clerics gather in Bogor for Iraq talks (Jakarta Post, 3 April 2007)

Indonesia floats Muslim solution to Iraq (The Star/ Reuters, 3 April 2007)

President Yudhoyono to open Islamic conference on Iraq (Antara, 3 April 2007)

RI to host Shiite-Sunni dialog in Bogor (Jakarta Post, 2 April 2007)

Iraqi clerics give Bogor talks a miss (Jakarta Post, 4 April 2007)

President: RI to host Hamas meeting late April (Antara, 4 April, 2007)

Abdullah to push for Mideast peace (New Straits Times, 27 March 2007)