Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged US President Joe Biden during a visit to the White House yesterday to do more to end atrocities in Gaza and help bring about a ceasefire.
The Israel-Hamas war overshadowed the Oval Office talks, which had been meant to showcase an upgrade in ties as Washington tries to boost alliances against an increasingly assertive China.
“Indonesia appeals to the US to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza,” Widodo, the leader of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, said as the two presidents met in front of a roaring fire.
“Ceasefire is a must for the sake of humanity.”
The Indonesian president had said Sunday he would bring 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.
Widodo 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.
US officials had said Biden would in turn urge his Indonesian counterpart to take a “larger role” in resolving the Israel-Hamas conflict in the talks at the White House on Monday.
“I think it will be critical to hear the perspectives from Indonesia about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East,” a senior US administration official said Sunday in a call with reporters.
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 atop a network of Hamas tunnels.
The meeting had been aimed at showing unity ahead of Biden’s summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco this week, with Washington trying to counter Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region.
Indonesia and the United States were shaking hands on a new “comprehensive strategic partnership” — Indonesia’s highest level of diplomatic ties.
Biden unveiled a similar upgrade to ties with Vietnam on a visit to Hanoi in September, part of Washington’s push to bolster its network of allies in Asia and the Pacific.
Indonesia, like many emerging and developing countries, has received massive Chinese investment and loans, particularly for infrastructure projects.
The leaders will also discuss cooperation on critical minerals for electric vehicle batteries and other clean energy technologies, US officials said.
Biden and Widodo — who is set to leave office next year after reaching the end of a two-term limit — will hold one-on-one talks in the White House Oval Office before having tea.
Widodo’s Washington visit comes ahead of what the officials called a consequential week in which Biden hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco.
Biden will meet China’s Xi on the sidelines of the summit on Wednesday — their first talks since the G20 gathered in the Indonesian resort island of Bali in November 2022.
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.