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Indonesia, Iran aim to finalize preferential trade agreement

The Jakarta Post - 21 April 2021

Indonesia, Iran aim to finalize preferential trade agreement
By Dian Septiari

Indonesia and Iran highlighted the need to finalize a trade agreement between the two countries during the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Jakarta on Monday.

Iran’s top diplomat met Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi at her Pejambon office, where they touched base on various bilateral issues following the celebration of 70 years of diplomatic relations last year.

During the meeting, Zarif expressed his side’s readiness to continue negotiations on the trade deal.

“Expressing pleasure with the growing level of trade ties between the two countries, Zarif referred to the huge capacity for bilateral business relations, and highlighted the necessity of expediting the finalization of a preferential trade agreement between the two countries,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website.

Indonesia and Iran have been talking about having a trade agreement for several years now, with the last round of negotiations happening in 2017.

Trade volume between the two countries rose sharply last year by 52 percent to US$215 million from $141.6 million in 2019 despite pandemic pressures, ministry data show. Indonesia sells natural rubber, palm oil, paper, tires and chemical products to Iran. Meanwhile, Indonesia imports steel, petrochemicals, minerals and raw materials for synthetic fiber from Iran.

During Monday’s meeting, the Iranian official also praised Jakarta’s “principled stances” at the United Nations Security Council in defense of maintaining the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and implementing UNSC Resolution 2231.

The comment was a snub on then-United States state secretary Mike Pompeo, who triggered a 30-day process in August last year to reimpose all international sanctions on Iran – known as the snapback – by lodging a complaint with the Security Council accusing Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal.

Then-Indonesian ambassador to the UN Dian Triansyah Djani, who was the council president for August, said he was "not in the position to take further action" because the 13 other council members expressed their opposition.

Zarif’s visit to Jakarta also comes three months after Indonesian authorities seized the Iranian-flagged tanker MT Horse and a Panamanian-flagged tanker, MT Freya.

The ships were suspected of a variety of violations, including illegally transferring fuel at sea, oil spillage, failure to fly national flags for identification purposes, concealing their vessel names, shutting off their identification systems and anchoring illegally.

Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) caught the Iranian flagged MT Horse and Panamanian flagged MT Freya “red-handed” as the two tankers were conducting ship-to-ship oil transfer operations, known as transshipment, after having turned off their automatic identification system (AIS), lowered their flags and covered up their vessels’ names.

Bakamla insists that its investigation was focused on the violations within Indonesian territorial waters and refused to comment on the US sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.

The two foreign ministries did not indicate whether the ministers discussed the seizure of the tankers.

Indonesia and Iran also exchanged views on the latest developments in the Afghanistan peace process. The US has said it will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that sparked the US “War on Terror”.

During his visit, Zarif also made a courtesy call on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

 source: The Jakarta Post