Indonesian Minister Hopes to Mediate Saudi-Iran Rift

JAKARTA (Reuters) -
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends the Arab foreign minister's meeting at the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends the Arab foreign minister’s meeting at the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

Indonesia wants to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the hope of preserving peace in the Middle East, an Indonesian official said on Tuesday, warning that the impact of war between the neighbors would have a global impact.

Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Muslims, the majority of whom are Sunnis, but it seldom plays a prominent role in the Islamic world.

Uneasy relations between the conservative Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite power Iran, deteriorated sharply after Saudi Arabia executed Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2, triggering outrage among Shi’ites. Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran, after protesters attacked the Saudi embassy there.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi will travel to the Middle East this week to meet the heads of state of the rivals, both of which are major oil exporters.

“Indonesia is ready to play a role to help the process and do whatever needs to be done to maintain peace and stability in the region,” Ministry Spokesman Armanatha Nasir told Reuters. “Because if it is not maintained, the impact is not just for the region –  there will be a global impact.” He added that Indonesia hopes the two sides can resolve their difference amicably.

Indonesia has seen sporadic attacks on its Shi’ite minority in recent years and analysts say there is a risk of increasing threats against the community given the tension in the Middle East. In fact, in recent days anti-terrorism police arrested four men suspected of planning attacks on prominent Indonesian Shi’ite leaders.

Officials estimate that there are more than 1,000 supporters of the hardline Sunni group Islamic State (IS) in Indonesia, and they report that scores of Indonesian IS activists have returned from the Middle East.