Saudi King to visit Indonesia in March with entourage of 1,500

Saudi King to visit Indonesia in March with entourage of 1,500
Saudi King Salman salutes as he attends a graduation ceremony and air show marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of King Faisal Air College in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

Saudi Arabia's King Salman will visit Jakarta and Bali on the Indonesian leg of his Asian tour next month (March), bringing 1,500 people in his entourage including 10 ministers, Indonesian officials said.

"This is a very historic visit for us," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the King would be in Indonesia from March 1 to 9. He would spend the last six days of his trip "relaxing" in Bali.

Anung said Indonesian President Joko Widodo hoped the visit would bring Saudi investments of up to US$25 billion (S$35 billion).

There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia.

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The last visit by a Saudi king to Indonesia was 46 years ago, when King Faisal came to the archipelago.

Indonesia hopes the visit will help further cement relations between its state-owned energy company Pertamina and Saudi Aramco, which are working together to upgrade the Cilacap refinery, Indonesia's largest refinery complex, while eyeing other developments.

"We are targeting investments," Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board chief Thomas Lembong told reporters.

Read also: Indonesian haj victims feel abandoned by Saudi

Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, hopes Saudi Arabia will help to promote moderate Islam through religious teaching and exchange programmes for scholars, Anung added.

Indonesia expects to sign agreements with Saudi Arabia on increasing the frequency of flights from the Middle East to Indonesia and increasing visitor numbers.

The longest leg of King Salman's trip to Asia this year will be in Indonesia, said Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman M. Fachir.

"This also is a promotion in itself, and hopefully this will increase the numbers of tourist arrivals from the Middle East."

Indonesia wants to use the visit to increase its annual quota of haj pilgrims, and win commitments to improve the health and safety of pilgrims and other Indonesians in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a major destination for Indonesian domestic workers, but Indonesia imposed a ban on new workers travelling to the Middle East in 2015 after two domestic workers were executed in Saudi Arabia.

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