Steinmeier’s trip to Asia: No questions about Putin

In the presidential palace in the west Javanese mountain town of Bogor, the climate is more tolerable than in the tropically hot Moloch Jakarta because of the elevated location. The Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is building a new capital on the neighboring island, therefore likes to receive state guests in the place about 60 kilometers from Jakarta. A few frightened deer ran across the grass in the extensive garden when the limousine carrying German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier pulled up at walking pace behind a military band in front of the white colonial building. The Indonesian President wants to make things a little more pleasant for himself and his guests. This includes not exposing them to the congestion and smog of Jakarta, a city that is literally sinking into the ground and threatens to be partially submerged in the coming decades due to rising sea levels.

In Jakarta, the consequences of climate change can be felt directly. But it remains a marginal topic during this visit. The Europeans are currently concerned with nothing more than the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. “Of course, our current efforts are specifically aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean that we lose sight of other things. On the contrary: we want to develop relations in the Indo-Pacific. We are intensively exchanging ideas here in the region about the economic and geopolitical effects of the war,” said Steinmeier at a joint press meeting with Widodo in Bogor. At the request of the Indonesians, questions were not allowed at the meeting.

“Can’t have normal operation during this time”

On the first major trip of his second term in office, which took him to the city-state of Singapore before Indonesia, the Federal President said several times that these two countries are key partners in the region. “Indonesia and Germany have a lot in common. Our common commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and that we must not only maintain the international rules-based order, but also advance it.” At least publicly, however, the Indonesian was very taciturn when it came to the war in Europe. Indonesia attaches “great importance to respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Widodo. Indonesia wants to work with other countries to alleviate the effects of the war, especially on food and energy.

Since no one was able to ask him, the President did not have to say how he felt about Russian President Putin traveling to the Indonesian island of Bali for the summit of the twenty industrialized and emerging countries in the fall. Many think it sends the wrong signal to give Putin a high-profile appearance in the G20 circle. Now is the right way to deal with the question. Steinmeier also expresses indirect concerns: “It is clear that there can be no normal operation at this time,” said the Federal President. A complete boycott by western countries seems difficult, as this would also backfire on the host. With a view to the G-20 summit, Steinmeier said that the federal government would continue to talk to President Widodo on this issue.

There will be an opportunity to do so very soon when the President travels as a guest to the G-7 summit in Elmau, Bavaria. Federal President Steinmeier was received with military honors in Bogor. With Widodo he paced the line of soldiers. Some of them wore feather headdresses, as is common in the province of West Papua in the east of the country. According to human rights groups, an independence movement is being violently suppressed in the province. Dealing with a country like Indonesia is not always easy when it comes to these and other human rights issues, even “if we are often so close in terms of values ​​and our interests,” as Steinmeier said.

The controversy surrounding the Indonesian artists’ group Ruangrupa, which is the curatorial team responsible for the documenta in Kassel this year, shows how different views can sometimes be. In the run-up to the art event, she was suspected of not wanting to distance herself from anti-Semites. In Indonesia, the German debate is hardly noticed. Steinmeier will open the documenta on Saturday shortly after his return from Asia. After the trip to fresher Bogor, Steinmeier went back to the capital Jakarta, where he attended the German school, where 80 percent of the students were Indonesian. Then we went to a mangrove park in northern Jakarta. The waterfront forests also protect against sea intrusion, but have been severely degraded in recent years.

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