INTERVIEW: People-to-people relations with Egypt are strong, economic relations are becoming stronger: Indonesia FM

Amr Yehia - from Jakarta, Monday 12 Feb 2024

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia Retno Marsudi called Egypt an “old friend,” pointing to strong people-to-people relations and improving economic relations. The minister made her remarks to Ahram Online in Jakarta.



During the interview, Marsudi also spoke about the country's diplomatic priorities through 2024 and the state of its relations with Egypt.

She also explained Indonesia’s position on Palestine, as well as its efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian situation in the strip and reach an end to the crisis through its membership in the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Ahram Online: How do you describe Indonesian foreign policy in general?
Retno Marsudi: Indonesian foreign policy is based on independent and active principles. 
Independent means Indonesia is free to partner with any country in pursuit of its national interest.
Active means Indonesia is committed to contributing to maintaining peace, stability, and prosperity in the world.  Indonesia is always committed to be part of the solution.
The independent and active principle is best described by President Joko Widodo in his statement: “Indonesia is Indonesia. It cannot be dictated to by anyone. It cannot be dictated to by any country. But it is always ready to contribute to the world.”
AO: What are the priorities of Indonesian diplomacy in 2024?
RM: For the last ten years, Indonesian diplomacy has been geared toward 4+1 priorities: which are strengthening economic diplomacy, intensifying sovereignty and border diplomacy, protecting Indonesian citizens abroad, acting in regional and global issues, and strengthening diplomatic infrastructure.
These 4+1 priorities will be continued in 2024.
During COVID-19…health diplomacy also became the priority of Indonesian diplomacy.
In 2024, economic diplomacy for Indonesia will include: finalizing the Grand Design of Economic Diplomacy, hosting the second Indonesia-Africa Forum, and convening the 2024 Indonesia-Latin America and the Caribbean (INA-LAC) in a wider scale in Peru.
AO: How do you see Indonesia-Egypt relations today?
RM: Egypt is an old friend of Indonesia, one of the first countries to recognize Indonesia’s independence back in 1945. We are both active members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the G77. We are also both ardent supporters of Palestine.
Our economic relation is also becoming stronger. The two-way trade has eclipsed the pre-pandemic level, rising by 35.9 percent from 2019 to 2022. Egyptian businesses are among the most active participants of the annual Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI). Last year Egypt ranked sixth in terms of transaction value among all participating countries.
Our people-to-people relations are also strong. Egypt, Al-Azhar University in particular, is one of the main destinations of overseas Indonesians students. Currently there are around 13,000 Indonesian students in Egypt.
We need to capitalize this good relation to further improve concrete cooperation that can benefit our people.
AO: What is Indonesia’s position on Palestine?
RM: Palestine is the only participant of the 1955 Asian-African Conference that has yet to gain independence. Indonesia is consistent in supporting Palestine. We will not rest until Palestine gains its independence and Palestinians have their rights fulfilled.
We support two-state solution based on internationally agreed parameters. With regards to the ongoing crisis, Indonesia’s priorities are to urge immediate ceasefire and ensure humanitarian assistance. We also call on the international communities to address the root-causes of the issue and push for the peace process to achieve the two-state solution.
Indonesia is part of the OIC ministerial committee that received the mandate of the Joint Arab-Islamic Summit to mobilize international support for Palestine. As part of the team, I have visited Beijing, Moscow, London, and Paris.
This month Indonesia will give oral statement to support the International Court of Justice in giving an advisory opinion on Palestine.
AO: Could you elaborate on Indonesia’s assistance to Palestine?
RM: Indonesia does not only render her political support to Palestine…but also offers capacity-building humanitarian assistance and support to UNRWA.
Since 7 October 2023, Indonesia has tripled its voluntary contribution to UNRWA.

In 2023, it sent 90.4 tons of food, clothes, sanitary needs, and basic medical supplies to Gaza.

In 2024, it sent the military’s Dr. Radjiman Wedyodiningrat (KRW) hospital ship carrying 242.6 tons of aid to Palestine. The ship will arrive in Egypt’s Arish Port by end of February.

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