Saturday, October 12, 2013


    Jakarta, Oct 12, 2013 (Antara) - The prolonged Syrian crisis became an important topic of discussion when leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies gathered in Bali, in early October.  
    Although the Syrian issue was not on the 21st APEC Summit's agenda, most leaders of APEC economies held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit and some brought up the Syrian issue during their talks.
        "The Russian President expressed his appreciation for Indonesia's stand on the Syrian crisis," Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa said, following a bilateral meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Bali on October 7, 2013.

         Indonesia and Russia have shared similar views on the Syrian issue, as the two countries emphasized using diplomatic means to deal with the problem in the Middle Eastern state.
         More praise for Indonesia came from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to Minister Marty. During his meeting with Yudhoyono in Bali, Abe expressed his appreciation for Yudhoyono's letter sent to him regarding the Syrian problem, the minister said.
         Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who came to Bali on behalf of President Obama, expressed his appreciation for Indonesia's stand on Middle East issues, in general, including the problems in Syria and Palestine.
         "The United States has expressed its appreciation for Indonesia's stand on the latest developments in the Middle East," Teuku Faizasyah, the presidential spokesman for foreign affairs, said following a courtesy call by Kerry to President Yudhoyono.
         United States officials also said they hoped Indonesia would be part of the process of change in the evolving situation of the Palestinian people, Faizasyah quoted Kerry as saying.
         The Syrian crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives, including women and children, was often discussed in previous meetings attended by leaders from various countries.
         Meanwhile, President Yudhoyono, in his September 2013 speech during the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, stated that diplomacy should be given a chance in trying to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.    
    President Yudhoyono added that Indonesia will not remain silent in responding to the Syrian conflict.
         Since the beginning, Indonesia has been trying to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict and to prevent the use of military force in the Arab country.
         Yudhoyono also met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg to convey his views on Syria.
         He asked all parties to refrain from pursuing military options without a UN mandate to settle the Syrian conflict.
         He also proposed three steps to help settle the Syrian conflict; first, ending all violence and bloodshed; second, ensuring the smooth distribution of much-needed humanitarian aid; and third, encouraging a political solution.
         The G20 Summit is traditionally a forum for economic issues, but the meeting in Russia was also dominated by the Syrian crisis.
         At that time, the United States lobbied for its plan to launch a military strike in Syria. But the idea was opposed by a number of major countries, including Russia, Indonesia, India, and China.
         Speaking to the press following the G20 Summit in Russia last September, President Vladimir Putin praised Indonesia for its firm stand against military intervention in Syria.
         "Which countries were firmly against it? (military intervention proposed by the US) Russia, the People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia- mind you, the largest Muslim country by population ¿ and Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Italy," he said.
         An official Russian source said, during the G20 meeting, that President Putin also praised the efforts of Minister Marty Natalegawa, who had met many parties, including the UN Secretary General, to arrange peace talks to end the violence in Syria.
         Facing opposition from various parties, President Barack Obama finally cancelled the planned military intervention in Syria.    
    When speaking at the General Debate of the 68th Session of UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2013, Minister Marty Natalegawa hailed the positive developments as the United States and Russia, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, agreed on a resolution regarding Syria.
         The UN Security Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution aimed at ridding war-torn Syria of chemical weapons.
        "The recent breakthrough on the issue of chemical weapons in Syria is clear evidence that diplomacy works," said the minister in his speech.
         "The international community has let the conflict in Syria proceed for too long. It is time to stop violence in Syria and create a peaceful situation in the country," Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said earlier in a written statement.
         He also expressed appreciation for the diplomacy displayed by Russia, the United States and Syria, which has resulted in Syria's willingness to disclose and destroy its chemical weapons.
         "Diplomacy and a verification process are still being developed. It is important for all related parties to work together and build trust," Natalegawa added.
         Indonesia, Natalegawa said, was one of the countries that had always stated that a compromise would help settle the Syrian problem.
         "The option is not always between 'not to act' and to act by hitting Syria with force, but can also lie in diplomacy," he pointed out.
         Indonesia has proposed conducting informal negotiations between the conflicting parties in Syria.
         Marty Natalegawa said that the idea emerged in response to the deadlock over the Geneva II peace conference plan for Syria.
         He added that informal negotiations would make it possible for the conflicting parties, the government and opposition groups in Syria to build confidence between each other and end the deadlock.
         "We wish to put forward efforts which are informal in nature. This would be a process to create mutual confidence, which is now non-existent," he said, after holding a bilateral meeting with Syria's foreign minister, Walid Muallem, at the United Nations Headquarters.
         The two ministers met for about 30 minutes, discussing efforts to find a new opportunity to deal with the current deadlock.
         Speaking after the meeting, Minister Walid Muallem said he appreciated this initiative, which Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had conveyed in a letter to Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad.
         "Indonesia is always welcome, your experts and your people are welcome in Syria as their second home," he said.
         Muallem also said that minister Marty would be traveling to Damascus in an effort to assist in negotiations.
         According to Marty, the letter from President Yudhoyono to President Assad contains Indonesia's views on efforts to settle conflicts in Syria, including a cessation of violence, increasing humanitarian care and beginning a political process.
         As the world's largest Muslim majority nation, Indonesia has been urged by some parties to play a larger role in finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian war.
         Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, for instance, has urged the government to play a more active role in mediating the Syrian conflict by negotiating a peaceful
         "We hope President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono can act as a go-between in the conflict," NU Chairman KH Said Aqil Siroj said recently.
         He added that Indonesia must use its influence to prevent more humanitarian tragedies in Syria and to prevent US-led military operations in Syria, as well as to encourage all parties in the country to refrain from violence and settle their conflict through dialogs.
         "There is still time to prevent more enormous humanitarian tragedies in Syria," he noted. ***1***
(T.F001/A/BESSR/Bustanuddin) 12-10-2013 22:58:20

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