Indonesia, Saudi Arabia pledge to strengthen economic, counter-terrorism partnership

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi welcomes her Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir before their meeting in Jakarta on Oct 23, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia and Saudi Arabia pledged to strengthen their economic partnership and step up cooperation in counter-terrorism during a meeting over-shadowed by the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

His death was the first topic tackled by the foreign ministers of both countries at a briefing after the joint commission meeting on Tuesday (Oct 23), with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir saying that investigations into the incident would be thorough.

Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi said: "We understand that this meeting comes amid a situation that has grabbed everyone's attention, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Because of that, in the meeting I conveyed Indonesia's position on the case."

President Joko Widodo expressed Indonesia's concern over the killing during his meeting with Mr al-Jubeir on Monday, adding that it hopes the investigations would be carried out transparently and thoroughly - a call Ms Retno repeated at the briefing.

Mr al-Jubeir reiterated that Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are committed to "see to it that the investigations are thorough and complete, and that the truth is revealed, and that those responsible will be held to account, and procedures and mechanisms are put into place to ensure something like this will never happen again".

Mr al-Jubeir's visit to Indonesia is a follow-up to the one made by King Salman in March last year.

The two foreign ministers held the first joint commission meeting to review the cooperation between their countries in the past year.

They agreed to boost collaboration in countering terrorism and radicalism, including through the exchange of intelligence and experiences, and training, said Ms Retno. A draft memorandum of understanding is being prepared to strengthen their work in this area.

And the two countries can do more to strengthen their economic partnership, said both foreign ministers.

"We believe that the size of trade and investment between our two countries is not commensurate with the size of our two economies, so we're rolling up our sleeves to try to move towards more investment, more trade," said Mr al-Jubeir. "We've seen progress in the last three years and we hope to have more progress."

The perennial issue of foreign worker protection cropped up once more, with Ms Retno saying that she welcomed the Saudi government's commitment to continue improving the protection for the more than 600,000 Indonesians living and working in Saudi Arabia.

She added that her Saudi counterpart had spoken to the President about some of the steps his country has taken, including introducing laws regulating minimum wages.

Mr al-Jubeir paid tribute to the deep historic ties and the many similarities between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, and noted that the joint commission will help take the bond between the two countries forward.

"We share a faith … We believe in the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law," he said.

"We believe in trying to resolve conflicts through peaceful means, and we work very closely on issues of mutual concern, whether it's Palestine, whether it's resolving conflicts in the Islamic world, whether it's development.

"And so the joint commission that we have is one of those mechanisms that tie the many elements of our governments together."

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