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Jakarta Post

Saudi crown prince postpones visit to Southeast Asia

Saudi crown prince postpones visit to Southeast Asia Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gives a joint press conference with France's President at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 10, 2018. YOAN VALAT / POOL / AFP (AFP/Yoan Valat/Pool)
Tama Salim
Jakarta   ●   Sat, February 16, 2019 2019-02-16 11:45 812 acca405afacc7201380025f21a067722 1 SE Asia Crown-Prince-Mohammed-bin-Salman,Indonesia,Malaysia,Saudi-Arabia,visit,haj-quota,crane-accidents,investment,Foreign-Ministry Free

The Foreign Ministry has announced that the planned visit of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to Indonesia and Malaysia, has been postponed.

MbS, as the crown prince is informally known, was expected to meet with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at Bogor Palace next week for talks on economic cooperation and what one senior ministry official dubbed on Friday as "the interests of the ummah".

The ministry then announced that the plan had been scrapped, without elaborating.

"Indonesia and Saudi Arabia will continue to communicate for a new schedule, and [...] more optimal outcomes [deliverables] for the visit," it said in a statement posted on its website on Saturday morning.

Separately, Malaysia's foreign ministry also came out with a postponement announcement, saying that it "apologizes for the change and the trouble it may have caused".

Prince Mohammed's last-minute cancelation comes amid a tour to India in an effort to ween the Saudi economy off oil exports. MbS also cut short a planned trip to Pakistan and it is still unclear if he will go ahead with a visit to China from Feb. 21 to 22.

The trip also comes amid MbS' efforts to restore his tattered reputation as the Arab kingdom's leading reformer, following allegations that he had played an important role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, in October. Officials have denied that the crown prince was involved.

The visit would have also come as an opportunity for Indonesia to rake in Saudi investments after it failed to meet expectations during the visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2017.

As the world's largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia also stood to benefit from talks with Riyadh on the haj pilgrim quota and a promise to provide compensation to Indonesian victims of a 2015 crane accident in Mecca.

At least 200,000 pilgrims from Indonesia visit Saudi Arabia every year for the haj. (tjs)