Indonesia proposes conference on Marawi

MANILA • Indonesia has proposed a "small conference" with the Philippines and Malaysia to discuss the situation in Marawi city, and come up with ways to deal with ultra-radical Muslims fighting there, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano said yesterday.

"The last 10 months there have been very good conversations, communication-sharing. In fact, the Indonesian Foreign Minister (Retno Marsudi) is proposing a meeting, a small conference, wherein we'll be able to talk about the situation and what we can do together with Malaysia," said Mr Cayetano.

He added: "We want to coordinate very well with Indonesia and Malaysia, so they won't also suffer at the hands of extremists."

South-east Asian nations are concerned that the weeks-long clashes in Marawi could spill over to their borders, as scores of militants from Indonesia and Malaysia are reportedly fighting in the area alongside Filipino fighters.

China, meanwhile, said it backs the Philippines' "anti-terrorism" operations in Marawi.

"Terrorism is the common enemy of mankind. China understands and firmly supports (Philippine President Rodrigo) Duterte's leadership and its government in fighting terrorism," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a regular press briefing in Beijing yesterday.

This comes after Manila officials confirmed last Saturday that US special forces were helping the Philippine army in Marawi, though they were confined to providing "technical assistance".

On Sunday, Mr Duterte said he did not seek support from the United States, and was "not aware of that until they arrived". But he was nevertheless grateful.

"I never approached any American to say, 'Help us'. We don't really need their help. Well, maybe a little... I am thankful just the same. They're already there," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia proposes conference on Marawi'. Print Edition | Subscribe