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Iranian Leader Visits Indonesia to Sign Trade Agreement


FILE - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, April 30, 2023.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will meet 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.

Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said Raisi is visiting at Widodo's invitation as Indonesia aims to speed up its post-pandemic recovery by increasing its exports.

The visit is expected to deepen Iran's ties with Indonesia as Tehran seeks alternatives to the United States-led Western domination of international affairs and seeks further cooperation after the two nations concluded negotiations on the Indonesia-Iran Preferential Trade Agreement this month, Indonesia's Trade Ministry said.

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.

Iran was a nontraditional trade partner for Indonesia, said Johni Martha, the director of bilateral negotiations at Indonesia's Trade Ministry. "With this PTA, we hope to widen our market reach and export opportunities in the Middle East and Persia," he said.

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.

In February, Raisi met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to seek further cooperation following their meeting last September 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 the 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 he meets with Widodo in the presidential palace in Bogor. They will witness the signing of the PTA and other agreements.

Before leaving Jakarta on Wednesday, Raisi will also meet with Indonesia's House Speaker Puan Maharani, religious figures and businesspeople. 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 Bandung.

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