OIC Asks Indonesia to Broker Yemen Peace

By Aditya Surya
150416-ID-OIC-620 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Iyad bin Amin Madani (left) addresses a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 15, 2015.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Muslim world’s largest inter-governmental body, wants Indonesia to mediate Yemeni peace talks as host of the upcoming Asian-African Conference.

But Indonesian officials have yet to say whether Jakarta will take on that role.

“We received ambassadors from the OIC yesterday, and they voiced their hope that Indonesia can contribute to resolving the problem in Yemen,” Reuters quoted Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto as telling reporters on Thursday.

Andi did not elaborate.

“The conflict in the Middle East will be a priority at the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung,” Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters, separately, after a meeting with OIC-member representatives at the State Palace in Jakarta.

High stakes

The escalating war in Yemen threatens to inflame tensions in the Middle East further, according to news reports. The conflict involves the rival regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran, which reflect the Sunni-Shia schism in Islam.

The Saudis lead a 10-nation coalition that is bombing Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in a military campaign to bring back Yemen’s internationally recognized president, who fled to Saudi Arabia, according to the Associated Press.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim population, is predominantly Sunni.

Nonetheless the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s leading Islamic clerical group, is urging the Indonesian government to seize the opportunity to serve as a peace broker in Yemen.

The future of the Muslim world is at stake, said Muhyiddin Djunaedi, head of the MUI’s division of foreign relations.

“The fear is this war will enlarge and create a scenario that will weaken the Muslims of both parties. The coalitions led by Iran and Saudi Arabia will destroy Muslims, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shia. This loss will be devastating for Muslims,” Muhyiddin told BenarNews.

Hamdan Bechar, an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), agreed that Jakarta could play an important role in settling the conflict on the Arabian Peninsula.

“We do not have to defend one of the conflicting parties. Our role is to be neutral, as a peace broker,” he told BenarNews.

“The world sees Indonesia’s position and role as the largest Muslim country that still guarantees religious freedom and successfully implements democracy,” he added.

Returning to Bandung

Leaders of 77 countries will soon be gathering in Indonesia for the Asian-African Conference. It will commemorate the inaugural meeting of Asian and African states that took place in the Javanese city of Bandung, and which President Sukarno hosted 60 years ago.

That meeting, in 1955, was historic because it fostered a strategic partnership between the developing African and Asian blocs, and was an impetus for the Non-Aligned Movement, which took off in the 1960s.

For the commemorative conference, the issue of statehood for Palestine will also be highlighted at this year’s meeting, which will be held in both Jakarta and Bandung. The conference will open Sunday and go till April 24.

“It will have substance. If Palestine is indeed on the agenda, the commemoration will be substantial, because Palestine is the only participant from the 1955 Asian-African Conference that has still not yet gained independence,” Teuku Rezasyah, executive director of the Indonesian Center for Democracy, Diplomacy and Defense, told the Jakarta Globe.


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