JAKARTA: Indonesia is set to host Taliban representatives at a religious scholars’ conference in support of the Afghan peace process, officials told Arab News.
Their attendance at the event follows the signing of a deal between the armed group and the US last month aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan. It will be held after Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in May.
“We are planning to (host the conference), everything is in process,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told Arab News, adding that the conference sought to strengthen the role of religious scholars for a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. “We were with the Indonesian Ulema Council in Doha two weeks ago to discuss the preparations.”
The conference is expected to attract 20 representatives from Afghanistan and 20 from the host country. The first such summit was held in Bogor, West Java, in May 2018. It was a trilateral meeting with representatives from Pakistan, but the Taliban was not present.
Muhyiddin Junaidi, head of the international relations department at the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), said that when the council’s delegation met Afghan Taliban leaders in Doha they had expressed their readiness to attend the scholars’ conference.
“I think this is a good initiative, as Indonesia can contribute to the ulema’s capacity-building and diplomacy because the ulema play an important role in Afghanistan and people listen to them,” he told Arab News.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani requested Indonesia’s support in the peace process during his visit to Jakarta in April 2017. The initiative to support the process through religious scholars arose after a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council visited Indonesia in November that year.
We were with the Indonesian Ulema Council in Doha two weeks ago to discuss the preparations.
Retno Marsudi, Indonesian foreign minister
While the Afghan Taliban refused to attend the Bogor conference in 2018, last July the group’s leadership was in Jakarta and held a series of under-the-radar meetings with then-vice president Jusuf Kalla and leaders of the MUI and Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama.
This year’s ulama conference is expected to involve women as well. According to Marsudi, women’s empowerment was part of Indonesia’s commitment to peace in Afghanistan.
She was in Kabul on Sunday to launch the Indonesia-Afghan Women’s Solidarity Network and said that empowering women means empowering the nation, and that investing in women also meant investing in peace.
During the visit, the Indonesian foreign minister was given the Medal of Malalai by Ghani for her role in the peace process and improving Afghan-Indonesian relations.
“I feel so honored to receive the award. This is actually for Indonesia because conflict resolution remains to be part of our foreign policy, and we contribute whatever we can do. Especially in Afghanistan, we are consistent in focusing on women’s empowerment issues,” Marsudi said.