Indonesian President urges Biden to help end Gaza 'atrocities'

Joko Widodo and Joe Biden discuss war along with topics on relations between US and Indonesia

President Joe Biden meets Indonesia's President Joko Widodo in the White House on November 13. AP
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Indonesian President Joko Widodo pressed US President Joe Biden during a visit to the White House on Monday to do more to end “atrocities” in Gaza and help bring about a ceasefire.

The Israel-Gaza war overshadowed the talks, which had been meant to show an upgrade in ties between Indonesia and the US before Mr Biden's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

“Indonesia appeals to the US to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza,” Mr Widodo, the leader of the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, said as the two presidents met.

“Ceasefire is a must for the sake of humanity.”

He said on Sunday that he would take Mr Biden a “very strong message” from a joint summit of Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh at the weekend, which condemned Israel and called for a ceasefire.

Mr Widodo had also said he would “deliver a specific message from President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, who asked me to convey it to President Biden", regarding the war.

But Mr Biden stayed focused on plans to upgrade co-operation with Indonesia to the highest level, in a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Washington has been trying to build alliances in the Asia-Pacific region as China becomes an increasingly assertive presence.

“This will mark a new era of relations between the United States and Indonesia across the board, affecting everything,” Mr Biden said, reading from a card.

The leaders would discuss co-operation on critical minerals for electric vehicle batteries and other clean energy technologies, of which Indonesia has large reserves, he said.

The meeting comes two days before Mr Biden is due to meet Mr Xi on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in San Francisco.

Washington and Beijing are hoping to stabilise ties amid increasingly tense competition for alliances with nations such as Indonesia.

Indonesia and other countries will be watching the talks between the superpower rivals because “they want a situation that is not risking global conflict", a US official said on Sunday.

Mr Biden unveiled a similar upgrade to ties with Vietnam on a visit to Hanoi in September.

Indonesia, like many emerging and developing countries, has received massive Chinese investment and loans, particularly for infrastructure projects.

But global concerns about the Israel-Gaza conflict were on the agenda in Washington, as they will be in San Francisco this week.

US officials had said that Mr Biden would urge Mr Widodo to take a “larger role” in resolving the Middle East situation.

“I think it will be critical to hear the perspectives from Indonesia about the continuing conflict in the Middle East,” a senior US administration official said Sunday.

This would include the “ceasefire issue” but also long-term goals such as a two-state solution after the war and rebuilding the shattered Gaza Strip, the US official said.

Indonesia last week denied an allegation by Israel that a hospital built in Gaza using Indonesian charity funding sits on top of a network of Hamas tunnels.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 4:03 AM