By NINIEK KARMINI – Associated Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 leading wealthy and developing nations, is traveling to Ukraine and Russia to meet with leaders of the two warring nations after a visit to Germany to attend the Group of Seven summit.
Widodo has sought to maintain a neutral stance since the start of the war and hopes his efforts will lead to a ceasefire and possible direct talks between the two leaders.
WHAT DOES WIDODO HOPE TO ACHIEVE?
Widodo said he wanted to encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to start a dialogue on ending the war, which has caused global food shortages and soaring commodity prices.
“My mission is to build peace, because war must be stopped and (its effects) on the food supply chain must be lifted,” Widodo said. “I will call on President Putin to open a dialogue and, as soon as possible, implement a ceasefire and end the war.
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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stifled world markets and contributed to higher prices for meat, dairy products, grains, sugar and vegetable oils.
“These visits are not only important for Indonesians but also for other developing countries to prevent people in developing and low-income countries from falling into extreme poverty and hunger,” Widodo said.
WHY DOES THE WAR IN UKRAINE MATTERS TO WIDODO?
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said it was important to achieve a resumption of grain exports from Ukraine and food and fertilizer exports from Russia to end shortages and reduce the costs.
Rising cooking oil prices prompted the Indonesian government to temporarily ban exports of palm oil products amid a series of student protests over soaring food prices. Indonesia resumed crude palm oil exports a month later.
Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest exporters of palm oil, accounting for 85% of global production.
WHY DO PUTIN AND ZELENSKY LISTEN TO WIDODO?
As G-20 chair this year, Indonesia has sought to remain neutral in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been cautious in its comments.
Widodo said he had offered Indonesian support in peace efforts to Putin and Zelenskyy, a move seen as an attempt to unite the G-20 forum divided by the ongoing conflict.
The United States and its allies in the Group of Seven major industrialized nations – a subset of the G-20 – have sought to punish Putin in any way possible, including threatening to boycott the G-20 summit. held later this year in Bali unless Putin is removed from the forum.
Widodo has invited Zelenskyy to the summit with Putin in hopes it will appease supporters of Ukraine and Russia and limit any distractions from other items on the forum’s agenda. Ukraine is not a member of the forum, but Russia is.
WHAT ARE HIS CHANCES OF SUCCESS?
Widodo will be the first Asian leader to visit the warring countries.
His efforts come weeks after Russia said it was considering an Italian proposal to end the conflict in Ukraine. Talks between Russia and Ukraine to end hostilities have virtually stalled.
Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers met for inconclusive talks in Turkey in March, followed by a meeting of delegations in Istanbul, which also failed to yield any concrete results.
Gilang Kembara, an international policy researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Indonesian think tank, is pessimistic that Putin will listen to Widodo to find a peaceful solution to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
“The chances for that are very slim,” Kembara said, “Indonesia doesn’t have much experience as a peace broker outside of the Southeast Asian region.”
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