BOGOR, Indonesia -- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo on Tuesday during a two-day trip aiming to strengthen economic ties between the Muslim-majority nations amid heightened global geopolitical tensions.
Widodo hosted Raisi at a ceremony in the colonial-style presidential palace in Bogor, just outside the capital, Jakarta. Raisi was visiting at Widodo’s invitation as Indonesia aims to speed up its post-pandemic recovery by increasing its exports.
The visit was expected to deepen Iran's ties with Indonesia as Tehran seeks alternatives to the United States-led Western domination of international affairs and looks to garner further cooperation after the two nations concluded negotiations this month on the Indonesia-Iran Preferential Trade Agreement worth $20 billion.
The two leaders witnessed the signing of the PTA and 10 other agreements Tuesday.
In a joint news conference after meeting with Raisi, Widodo said he and Raisi also discussed expanding export opportunities in the Middle East and Persia and offering opportunities for Iranian businesses to invest in the development of Indonesia’s new capital on Borneo island.
The ministry’s data showed that trade between Indonesia and Iran amounted to $54.1 million between January and March, while the bilateral trade value last year increased by more than 23% to $257.2 million.
Southeast Asia’s largest economy is seeking new markets to diversify its export options and to reduce its reliance on traditional trade partners, many of which have been affected by a weakened global economy and geopolitical risks. Iran was a nontraditional trade partner for Indonesia, the archipelago nation of over 270 million people.
“The numerous documents that we signed today showed the will of the two countries to develop relations in all situations despite of threats and sanctions by the enemies,” Raisi said.
He said his country has attained “remarkable development” in the economy, science and technology despite decades of U.S. government sanctions following the seizure of its embassy in Tehran in 1979.
“We believe that sanctions and threats cannot stop us in any way from cooperation and communication with neighboring countries, Muslim nations and countries that are aligned with us," Raisi said.
The two leaders said they also discussed heightened geopolitical tensions in many parts of the world, and agreed to continue their support for Palestinians, and education for women and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
In February, Raisi met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to seek further cooperation following their September meeting in Uzbekistan, when Xi underscored China’s support for Iran.
Both countries have had tense relations with the U.S. and have sought to project themselves as a counterweight to American power alongside Russia.
Washington has accused Iran of selling hundreds of attack drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and has sanctioned executives of an Iranian drone manufacturer. At that same time, ties between Moscow and Beijing have grown stronger.
While in Indonesia, Raisi is scheduled to lay a wreath at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in Jakarta to honor Indonesia’s war dead. Before leaving Jakarta on Wednesday, Raisi will also meet with Indonesia’s House Speaker Puan Maharani, religious figures and business people. He'll visit Jakarta’s Istiqlal Grand Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia, and give public lectures in an Islamic university.
Widodo’s last trip to Iran was in 2016, while the last official state visit from Iran was in 2015 when Hassan Rouhani attended the 50th commemoration of the Asia-Africa Conference in West Java's Bandung city.
Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.