Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meeting with her Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, at her ministry's offices in Central Jakarta on Tuesday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Indonesia, Saudi Arabia Agree to Work Closer on Global Peace Efforts, Increase Bilateral Trade

OCTOBER 24, 2018

Jakarta. Indonesia and Saudi Arabia strengthened commitments to cooperate in international peacebuilding and conflict-resolution efforts, including in support of Palestinian independence, and agreed to increase bilateral trade and investment, during a meeting between their foreign ministers in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"There are substantial challenges to peace and stability in the Middle East, which cannot be achieved without peace and independence in Palestine. Therefore, we have agreed to continue working together to realize an independent Palestine based on two-state solution," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said at a joint press statement after the meeting.

The two countries also agreed to step up cooperation in tackling radicalism and terrorism.

Retno said the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) is currently drafting a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia's Presidency of State Security on the matter, which will include sharing of intelligence and experience, training and capacity building.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir highlighted that Indonesia and his country not only share the Islamic faith, but also a common world view.

"We work very closely on issues of mutual concern, whether it's Palestine, resolving conflict in the Islamic world, [or] development," Al-Jubeir said.

The two ministers also reaffirmed that they would promote bilateral trade and investment, noting steady progress over the past three years, but also several agreements that are still pending implementation, including a joint refinery project by Indonesia's state energy company Pertamina and Saudi Aramco, the Middle Eastern country's national energy company.

Total trade between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, its largest trading partner in the Middle East, amounted to more than $4.5 billion in 2017, with a surplus in the latter's favor.

"We believe the size of trade and investment between our two countries is not commensurate with the size of our respective economies, so we're rolling up our sleeves to move towards more investment, more trade," Al-Jubeir said.

Retno highlighted Indonesia's interest to increase investment in the pharmaceutical industry, including better access to the Saudi market for Indonesian drugs and other medical products.

The ministers also discussed the protection of Indonesian citizens in Saudi Arabia, where more than 600,000, mostly domestic workers, reside.

"I welcome the commitment made by the Saudi government to continue improving protection for Indonesian migrant workers," Retno said.

She added that Al-Jubeir had discussed the details of these efforts during a courtesy call on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the State Palace on Monday. These covered regulated working hours and minimum wages.