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Jakarta Post

RI strives to douse flames of Iran-Saudi spat

  • Tama Salim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, January 8, 2016   /  06:20 pm
RI strives to douse flames of Iran-Saudi spat

Retno LP Marsudi - JP

The government is exploring every diplomatic avenue in an attempt to ease growing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, calling on both countries to exercise restraint and seek a peaceful resolution.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said that over the last few days, Indonesia had carried out intensive communication with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iran and several other countries.

'€œWe are striving to seek a peaceful solution with all foreign ministers. However, nothing has been concluded yet, as the situation remains unstable. That'€™s why we need to maintain intensive communication with them,'€ Retno told journalists after her annual press statement on Thursday.

The minister said she had also spoken with Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretary-general Iyad Ameen Madani, to discuss ways for Indonesia to positively contribute to the situation.

Retno said that Indonesia was '€œvery worried'€ about the deteriorating bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the possible repercussions for peace and stability in the Middle East. '€œPeace in the Middle East depends on the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran,'€ she stressed.

Retno said that Indonesia, as a friend of both nations, would do everything it could to prevent the situation from worsening, adding that Indonesia had already engaged its Muslim leaders, ulema and other religious figures in anticipation of a worsening sectarian conflict.

The ministry'€™s director general for multilateral affairs, Hasan Kleib, said that Indonesia, home to the world'€™s largest Muslim population, would keep intensifying communication with other countries to explore possible forms of dispute settlement.

'€œWe hope that this conflict can be settled immediately through diplomacy,'€ Hasan said.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran began to deteriorate following Riyadh'€™s execution of renowned Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday.

Hours after the execution, protesters in Shiite-majority Iran attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, leading Saudi Arabia to cut diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday.

Iranian Ambassador to Indonesia Valiollah Mohammadi said on Thursday that his government had been working hard to improve relations and expand cooperation with its Saudi counterpart for two and a half years, before ties were severed on account of the incident.

'€œ[Saudi Arabia] killed our religious figure. Unfortunately a small group of people rallied in grief; they were caught by the police and are now in prison,'€ Mohammadi told reporters on the sidelines of the ministry event.

The diplomatic confrontation has continued to simmer, with countries around the world voicing concern and appealing for calm.

The chairman of the House of Representatives'€™ Commission I overseeing foreign affairs, Mahfudz Siddiq, said the Iran-Saudi spat risked increasing tension not just in the Middle East, but in the entire Islamic world.

It is in this context that, Mahfudz opined, Indonesia needed to step in and play an active role in settling the dispute.

'€œThere is a proxy war going on between two poles of power '€” the Sunni majority Saudis and the Shiite majority Iranians '€” and it has now reached a critical point. That'€™s what Indonesia needs to anticipate,'€ he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

According to Mahfudz, Indonesia has a responsibility to stop the conflict from spreading throughout the Islamic world.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician also acknowledged that high tensions would inevitably impact the hosting of the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

'€œ[As the home of the] largest number of haj pilgrims, Indonesia is certain to be invested in any political tension that poses a threat to the hosting of the haj '€” we can'€™t afford to have this conflict deepen and spread,'€ he said.

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