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Indonesia calls for OIC unity in support of Palestine

Jakarta Post - May 7, 2024

Jakarta – Indonesia sought to remind leaders of the Islamic world to "remain united in helping Palestine", as the organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened over the weekend to hash out a resolution on the war in Gaza amid revived efforts to advance ties between Israel and Arab nations.

"I would like to remind us of the Arab Peace Initiative and the OIC decision that peace with Israel will only be possible if Israel ends its occupation of Palestine," Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Sunday according to a transcript of her speech to the conference.

"That decision sent a strong message to Israel: without independence for Palestine, there can be no diplomatic relations. That message and decision should be maintained," she asserted.

Like many OIC member states, Indonesia does not maintain any formal relations with Israel.

Retno's remarks came almost a week after the United States revealed it was prepared to offer Saudi Arabia security guarantees if it "normalizes" relations with Israel.

Riyadh, a close ally of Washington in the Middle East, has long been courted to establish official channels with Tel Aviv but paused talks when the Gaza war broke out.

Pro-Israeli media sources have also suggested that Indonesia, another staunch supporter of Palestinian sovereignty, was in similar talks to forge official ties with Israel, conjecture that the government in Jakarta has repeatedly refuted.

The OIC Summit in Banjul, The Gambia was the first regular meeting of the group after Israel began its assault on the occupied Palestinian territory, which has killed more than 34,000 people since Oct. 7 and continues despite global calls for a permanent ceasefire.

Indonesia's top diplomat described it as bearing witness to "the worst atrocities in modern history".

Speaking on behalf of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the summit, Retno reiterated the importance of having the OIC "defend justice and humanity for the Palestinians" and "not let our attention be divided".

"Our focus should remain united on helping Palestine," she said.

The minister later revealed that she spoke with a number of counterparts from OIC member states on the sidelines of the summit, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Bangladesh, Tunisia, The Gambia, Morocco, Malaysia and Brunei. She also held talks with the secretary-general of the OIC and the deputy prime minister of Uganda.

Nearly all of her meetings broached the topic of Palestine, she said, from the ongoing negotiations for an immediate and permanent ceasefire to efforts to support Palestine's full membership at the United Nations and steps to prevent the further escalation of conflict.

Regional tensions have soared since the start of Israel's "unflinching aggression" in Gaza, as the OIC describes it, drawing in responses from groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, as well as widespread condemnation.

At the end of the two-day summit, OIC member states adopted the 34-point Banjul Declaration, which sees the group reiterate its "solid support for the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle to attain their inalienable rights including their right to self-determination and to establish a sovereign state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital".

They also collectively called upon the international community "to compel the occupying power to abide by international law, and United Nations resolutions and end its illegal occupation, colonization of and apartheid in the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".

"Failure to do so is bound to prolong the conflict, cause further suffering and instability in the region and diminish the chances of a 'two-state solution'," the OIC leaders declared.

Analysts said Retno's warning against divided attention in supporting Palestine could be motivated by foreign media reports that Indonesia was seeking to open bilateral ties with Israel, a speculation that could potentially undermine Jakarta's decades-long effort to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Experts said Israel would benefit if Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim population, softened its stance on Palestine.

"These reports on advancing diplomatic ties usually come from Israeli media. It is a distraction that could obstruct our main diplomatic agenda, such as calling for a permanent ceasefire," Middle East expert Yon Machmudi of the University of Indonesia told The Jakarta Post.

Officials from the Foreign Ministry have previously told the Post that they consider these reports a "media-framing stunt" from Tel Aviv.

Another Middle East expert, Siti Mutiah Setiawati of Gadjah Mada University, said the reports could be used as a distraction tool. But she said Indonesia's stance on Palestine would likely be unchanged despite the possibility of informal engagement between Indonesian and Israeli officials.

"The consistency of Indonesian foreign policy can be measured through its stance on Palestine, a position against colonization that was mandated by our Constitution," Siti said.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesia-calls-for-oic-unity-in-support-of-palestine