Tag: Retno Marsudi

Plans for holy land tour in limbo as Israel imposes blanket ban on Indonesian visitors

Sally Piri’s plan to take her mother on a tour of the holy sites in the occupied West Bank this year may be put on hold after Israel’s recent move to ban Indonesian passport holders from entering the territory.

She had planned to go with her mother in November and has already paid for the tour, which includes visits to Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth and Caesarea, when she read the news that Israel had issued policy starting on June 10 that bans Indonesians to enter Israel.

jerusalem-88769_1280.jpg

“I really hope the policy will change so tourists like us who want to go on pilgrimage tours can still go. My travel agent told me they are still waiting for results of negotiations between their local partners and the authorities in Israel to have the policy revoked,” Sally told Arab News.

“My mother said she has been everywhere and now she just wants to go to the holy land,” she added.

Syuhelmaidi Syukur, a senior vice president of Jakarta-based humanitarian group Aksi Cepat Tanggap, told Arab News the ban will not disrupt the group’s humanitarian assistance for people in Palestine.

“We have rarely sent our own humanitarian workers there for the past two years, so we distribute our aid with the help of our local partners and fellow humanitarian groups in Gaza and Jerusalem,” he said.

Last week’s blanket ban for Indonesian tourists was, according to media reports, a tit-for-tat response to Indonesia’s decision to suspend visas already issued to Israeli citizens, suggesting that the visa cancelation was Indonesia’s response to the violence in Gaza in which Israeli soldiers killed dozens of Palestinians and injured thousands during recent protests to mark the Nakba.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said last week that Israel had been trying to reverse Indonesia’s decision but to no avail, which resulted in Israel reciprocating the move.

Indonesian Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly confirmed on Friday that there were 53 Israeli nationals who had been denied visas to enter Indonesia.

“It was a clearing (house) decision that we have to carry out. We can’t disclose the reason because it’s a sensitive matter. It is our sovereign right to accept or reject visa (applications) from other countries,” Laoly told journalists at the Foreign Ministry.

Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but an Israeli passport holder can still get an Indonesian visa through the “calling visa” mechanism which is available for citizens of nations with which Indonesia has no diplomatic relations.

The calling visa application is reviewed and granted by a clearing house which involves a number of government agencies with the Foreign Ministry at the lead, and the conditions applied to a calling visa holder are very restrictive.

Both Laoly and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi denied there had been initial talks about diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Israel or the possibility of Indonesia granting free visas to Israeli nationals.

“Indonesia continues to be with Palestine in their struggle for independence and their rights. Our foreign policy to take sides with Palestine is very clear,” Marsudi said.

The story first appeared in Arab News

Indonesia maintains its stance on Syria following pressure from US and its allies

Indonesia said its position remains the same after the US, the UK and France called on it to join forces in pressuring Syria’s Assad regime about its alleged use of chemical weapons.

Envoys from the three countries on Thursday asked to meet Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and requested that the country go further in its stance on Assad’s regime.

Arrmanatha Nasir, Foreign Ministry spokesman, told journalists on Friday that Indonesia was deeply concerned about developments in Syria after the US and its allies’ missile strikes.

Nasir said during the meeting that the three Western countries’ ambassadors conveyed their views on Syria, while Marsudi reiterated Indonesia’s position issued on Apr. 14 after the strike, which underlines the need for all parties to respect international laws and norms, in particular the UN charter on international peace and security.

Retno1
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with the UK’s ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, the US’s Joseph R. Donovan and France’s Jean-Charles Berthonne on Thursday, Apr. 19 to hold talks about the situation in Syria. Photos: Twitter/@Menlu_RI

Indonesia also “strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by any parties in Syria” and called on all parties to show restraint and prevent an escalation of the deteriorating situation.

Indonesia stressed the importance of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Syria through negotiations and peaceful means and expressed concern about the security of civilians, calling on all parties to ensure that the safety of women and children was always a priority.

Beginda Pakpahan, an international relations lecturer at Universitas Indonesia, said that the country’s position on Syria was clear and reflected its free and active foreign policy.

“They (the ambassadors) should be aware of Indonesia’s position,” Pakpahan said.

Rene Pattiradjawane, a former Kompas daily senior journalist and foreign policy commentator, said that it was natural the three countries would seek support from Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

But with its free and active foreign policy, Indonesia could not support US and its allies’ unilateral strike on Syria and it should not be interpreted as espousing either Russia or Syria.

“Indonesia sees this more as a humanitarian problem with a lot of collateral damage,” he said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there are up to 2,000 Indonesian citizens in Syria.

Moazzam Malik, the UK’s ambassador to Indonesia, said after Thursday’s meeting that he and fellow ambassadors to Indonesia, the US’s Joseph R. Donovan and France’s Jean-Charles Berthonne, would like Indonesia to join them in holding the Assad regime accountable for the suspected misuse of chemical weapons against their own citizens and the abuse of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Malik said that since Indonesia would soon become a committee member of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), they would like it to put pressure on Syria and Russia to open access for the investigation in Douma.

This story was first published in Arab News

 

Indonesian sailors survived six months held captive by Benghazi militia

Embun Diarsih had been used to being in touch once a week with her husband Ronny William, a sailor for 35 years.

But in September 2017, after William did not contact her for two weeks, she became a bit anxious and her worries were confirmed when one of his fellow sailors told her that the Malta-flagged fishing vessel on which William was working was hijacked near Benghazi, Libya.

“I hadn’t heard from my husband for two weeks, then I had a call from his friend, an Indonesian sailor who was also working on a fishing vessel in Europe, he told me that the boat in which my husband was working on had been hijacked near Benghazi,” Embun said at the foreign ministry on Monday where Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi officially handed over William and five other crew members to their families.

Embun said she immediately contacted the Indonesian authorities and told them about the abduction.

Ronny, who was speaking on behalf of his five fellow crew members Joko Riadi, Haryanto, Waskita Idi Patria, Saefudin, and Mohamad Abudi, said they sailed from Malta looking for fishing grounds in the Mediterranean Sea with seven people onboard including an Italian captain.

The Salvatur VI vessel was seized by Benghazi-based militia on Sep. 23 last year about 23 miles off the Libyan coast. The militiamen seized everything, including communication devices and the crew members’ personal belongings.

IMG_0815.JPG
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad Lalu Muhammad Iqbal had a chat with the crew family members at the foreign ministry on Monday, April 2, 2018. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

“Since the vessel didn’t have any means of communication, the Indonesian government only found out about the hijacking on Sep. 28 from the vessel’s owner, who contacted the Indonesian Embassy in Rome,” said Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.

Indonesian authorities, including officials from the state intelligence agency BIN tried to contact the militia to gain access to the crew.

In December, the Indonesian embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi, which gave approval for communication with the crew.

“The communication access enabled us to get proof of lives and to monitor their condition,” Iqbal said.

Embun said that was when she was finally able to talk to her husband again after waiting for three months.

“I just waited and waited. I understand it’s a conflict area and the process was difficult,” she said.

Following months of intensive communication with various parties in Benghazi, Indonesian officials reached an understanding with them on how to extract the hostages.

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-02 at 13.49.40
Indonesian sailors rejoiced as they were released from their captors in a Benghazi port on Mar. 27, 2018 after being held captive in one of the vessels there for six months. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“On March 27, at 12.30 local time, the six crew were handed over to us at the port of Benghazi,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi adding that the whole process was delicate given the complex political situation in Libya.

“There were no ransom paid,” she added.

William said they survived on the run-down boat by fishing, and they asked one of the militiamen assigned to guard them to sell some of the fish they caught in the market, and to use to the money to buy rice and other provisions.

“Until December, we witnessed clashes between militia group that tried to take over Benghazi with Islamic State (IS) militants. A bomb fell not far from the boat where we were held captive,” he added.

“The port and the city are in ruins. It’s like a dead town. Decayed boats and damaged buildings were everywhere,” he said, adding that the Italian captain, who was ailing, had been rescued in October.

Retno said the Foreign Ministry is continuing to communicate with the boat’s owner in Malta.

“We will make sure that the crewmen’s rights are fulfilled,” she said.

The original story was published in Arab News

 

It’s Complicated: Indonesia keen on China’s investments despite fishing disputes

The open confrontation between Indonesia and China in Indonesia’s fish-rich Natuna area and subsequent coolness between the two countries belies President Joko Widodo’s moves to establish closer ties with Beijing during the first months of his presidency, which began in October of 2014.

The president’s first international visit was to Beijing, followed with his full pledge to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), causing some nationalists at home to point to Indonesia’s “independent and active” foreign policy manifesto, telling Jokowi that although Indonesia needs investment from China, the second largest economy in the world, he should keep his distance.

Jokowi’s political opponents have raised the issue of incoming thousands of Chinese workers reported to be illegally working in Indonesia after the president signed many investment agreement with China. Antipathy to those workers has made headlines in influential Jakarta media for months.

The public was also shocked by Jokowi’s sudden decision to adopt Chinese technology instead of the long-planned Japanese equipment for Indonesia’s first high-speed railway line connecting the capital city Jakarta and Bandung in west Java.

The line is planned to span 42 kilometers from Jakarta to Bandung and is expected to be completed by 2019, at the time when Jokowi is expected to be seeking re-election.

The Ministry of Transport said the holding company PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC), had moved so fast that it hadn’t even obtained a business license for public railway infrastructure, urging them to work fast on the papers to get the project going.

Former transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan refused to grant instant permits to the project, saying that his ministry is taking extra precautions since the Chinese loan has a tenure of 50 years and the government wants all assets to be in good condition when they are eventually handed over to the government.

Ignasius Jonan was one of several ministers that Jokowi replaced during the July 27 cabinet reshuffle.

In the meantime, Indonesian navy and Chinese vessels and coast guards are bumping to each other many times around the Indonesian territory off the Natuna island, causing clear irritation in Jakarta.

The latest incidents involved the MV Kwang Fey 10078 and Han Tan Cou 19038 vessels, which were reported to have been fishing illegally in Natuna waters near the Riau Islands.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel forcibly rescued MV Kwang Fey 10078 by pushing it back into Chinese waters, taking it away from a patrol boat from the Indonesian Maritime and Fisheries Monitoring Task Force that was escorting the boat after apprehending it.

After the latest incident and several diplomatic notes sent to Beijing, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia wants to maintain good relations with China but will not negotiate over violations of Indonesia’s sovereignty and jurisdiction on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf.

“We have a good relationship with China. We will strive to maintain our good relations along with international laws,” Marsudi told journalists at the State Palace after the incidents took place.

Jokowi then took several of his ministers for a “quick cabinet meeting” on board of Indonesia’s warship to send signals to Beijing that Indonesia is serious in defending its sovereignty.

These incidents add tensions between China and its neighbors the Asean member countries, as China has sought to assert its control in the region with its self-claimed nine-dashed line which take Chinese ownership almost to the doorsteps of several of the littoral countries.

China claims most of the South China Sea, which includes overlapping claims by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Will Indonesia add to these tensions, and how should Indonesia react to the perceived “muscle flexing” by Beijing?

“I think Indonesia is only attempting to maintain its strategic positions vis-a-vis China,” Yeremia Lalisang, a scholar from the University of Indonesia, told The Parrot.

“On the one hand, Indonesia has to reflect its commitment to international law, so there is no reason for the Indonesian government not to push China to respect it. However, it cannot be ignored that China is now the world’s second largest economy, and it’s also clear that Jokowi’s presidency has mainly focused on the efforts to revive Indonesia’s national economic development. So, it seems Jakarta clearly understands that cooperative relations with China could contribute positively to the attainment of such a goal.”

The public and policymakers “should not only take the partial understanding of China’s muscle flexing, because then we will lose the opportunity for cooperation’s in other fields,” he added.

Today, Indonesia’s US$44 billion annual trade with China remains strong and first quarter investments from Beijing experienced a 400 percent increase from last year. However, China’s 14 percent realization rate on its investment pledges is much smaller than Japan and South Korea’s 70 percent realization rate.

 

 

Two armed groups abducted Indonesian sailors in the Philippines

The Indonesian navy said Sunday that seven Indonesian sailors taken hostage in the Philippines’ Sulu Sea are believed to have been kidnapped by two separate armed groups.

Navy spokesman First Admiral Edi Sucipto said the tugboat Charles 001 manned by 13 crew departed on June 18 from Cagayan De Oro Port in the Philippines bound for Samarinda, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan when it was ambushed by nine men in two boats coming from the direction of Jolo Island.

“One of the men was speaking Malay and carrying a long-barreled rifle. They abducted three crew members and seized the boat’s communication devices,” Sucipto said.

The captors allowed the boat and the rest of the crew to continue their journey.

The first abduction happened on June 20 at 11.30 am local time and the second ambush followed only one hour and 15 minutes later.

“The tug boat was ambushed by another group of about 10 men who were using three boats. Based on the information we collected, the captors were speaking English and acted rudely and arrogantly, armed with gun and long-barreled rifle,” Sucipto said.

The captors abducted four crewmembers and released the boat with six remaining crew to continue its journey.

IMG-20160626-WA004
Tugboat Charles, which was ambushed twiceand whose seven crew have been kidnapped by armed groups in the southern Philippines waters. Photo courtesy of Indonesian Navy

The boat is now docked in Semayang Port of Balikpapan, East Kalimantan after it was located by Multatuli-561 warship and escorted by Kerapu-821 war ship back to Balikpapan.

The government confirmed the kidnappings on Friday after initial confusion about the veracity of the reports.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi strongly criticized the abduction of Indonesian sailors by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and the third one in the same waters since March.

“This third occurrence is really intolerable,” Retno said during a press conference on Friday.

“The Indonesian government demanded the Philippine government to ensure security in the southern Philippines waters so it does not disrupt economic activity in the region. In this case, the Indonesian government stands ready to cooperate,” she added.

Following last week’s abductions, the Indonesian government imposed again the moratorium, which was imposed after the second kidnapping in April, to ship coal to the Philippines.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Friday plans to conduct joint patrols in the waters bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is yet to be materialised

The joint patrol aimed to prevent more hijackings of ships in the waters was one of the four agreements resulted from a trilateral meeting between foreign ministers and military chiefs of the three countries in Yogyakarta’s presidential palace, Gedung Agung, on May 5.

“The three countries are in  the process of discussing the patrol’s standard operating procedures, following the Yogyakarta meeting. We are pushing for that to happen soon,” Arrmanatha told reporters.

 

Mixed views on whether Indonesia should join Saudi-led alliance to fight terrorism

Indonesia says it has yet to decide whether to join a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism, as observers weigh in on the merit of taking part in the initiative.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Indonesia would have to learn the terms of reference and modalities before agreeing to such an international alliance.

“Saudi Arabia can’t show us the terms of reference yet,” Arrmanatha said at a press briefing on Wednesday

“We need to learn the modalities to determine whether they are in line with our foreign policy,” he added.

Hamdan Basyar, a Middle East expert from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said there should be no harm for Indonesia to join the initiative because of its purpose to combat militant armed groups.

“We should join for the sake of tackling violent groups like ISIS. It would create a sense of togetherness in this cause,” he said.

The head ofthe Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI)’s international relations and cooperation department, Muhyiddin Junaidi, said Indonesia should not join the alliance,  which gathers 34 Muslim and Muslim-majority countries.

He said there were indications that the initiative was meant to target a certain group and given that there are ongoing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is not a member.

Muhyiddin, who also heads the same department in Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, said Indonesia should stick to its free and active foreign policy.

“We should refrain from taking sides in a dispute,” Muhyiddin said, adding that the Indonesian people should also understand that the conflict in the Middle East has nothing to do with Shia and Sunni rivalry.

Hamdan said that the perception that the Middle East conflict stemmed from the Shia and Sunni conflict may have caused Indonesia’s reluctance to join the cooperation.

He added that it would be irrelevant to tie it with the geopolitical rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabis, and this was not the cause why Iran is not included on the list.

“It’s more about jostling for dominance in the Middle East,” Hamdan said.

The Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry said in a press release on 15 December that the 34 Middle Eastern and African countries listed in the statement have decided to form a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism and they would establish an operational center based in Riyadh to coordinate and to fight terrorism.

“More than ten other Islamic countries have expressed their support for this alliance and will take the necessary measures in this regard, including Indonesia,” the statement said.

“We were surprised because the invitation was not to form a military alliance,” Arrmanatha said.

He acknowledged that Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was contacted by her Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir and talked about joint cooperation, but Retno stressed the need for further discussions before Indonesia could  agree on any cooperation.

“I think all countries support efforts to fight extremism though they may have their own ways to do it,” Arrmanatha said.