Indonesia Calls for Restraint in Saudi-Iran Tensions


JANUARY 07, 2016

Jakarta. Indonesia has engaged in "intensive communication" with a number of countries in its efforts to ease tensions in the Middle East, calling on all parties to "exercise restraint," according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Saudi Arabia shocked the world last Saturday when the Sunni-majority kingdom announced it had executed 47 prisoners comprised of convicted terrorists and four Shiite Muslims. Among the latter was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent cleric from the nation's minority Shiite community who had for years loudly advocated for equal rights for his fellow worshipers.

Two days later, angry demonstrators in the Iranian capital of Tehran stormed the Saudi embassy, ransacking the building and setting it on fire.

Saudi Arabia cut all political ties with Iran in response, prompting fellow Sunni-majority Bahrain and Sudan to follow suit. The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, pulled their diplomatic mission from Tehran.

In an effort to quell heightened tensions and prevent the diplomatic crisis from further deteriorating, the Indonesian government has maintained communication with the above countries along with Malaysia, Qatar, Turkey and Russia, as well as the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

“As a nation with cordial relations with the two countries [Saudi and Iran], Indonesia has offered to support the peaceful resolution of this issue,” she said. “Indonesia reiterates the importance of peace and stability in the Middle East.”

The minister said her country will continue to be “the key driver in spreading the values of Islam as a rakhmattan lil Alamin [blessing for all creation], and the prime mover in spreading the values of tolerance and democracy."

Retno's remarks came after Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said Indonesia is preparing to stage an international conference at which related parties “could work to find a concrete solution in the near future."

Also on Tuesday, President Joko Widodo welcomed members of the country's highest Islamic clerical council, the Indonesian Council of Ulema, which said Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population with strong ties with both Saudi and Iran, has the power and interest to maintain peace in the Middle East.