Foreign Ministry: No 'bilateral meetings' held with Indonesia

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday saying that two senior Israeli diplomats who participated in last week's UN conference on Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in Jakarta did not hold "bilateral meetings with their Indonesian counterparts." One of the diplomats, Amos Nadai, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for Asia and Pacific, said in an Army Radio interview Tuesday that he met with government officials, but did not elaborate. According to the Foreign Ministry statement, Nadai and Israel's ambassador to Thailand, Yael Rubinstein, met during their stay with "participants of the conference as well as with private sector Indonesian personalities." The statement was issued after Indonesian Foreign Minister Nur Hassan Wirajuda denied Wednesday that the two met with senior Indonesian government officials in Jakarta. He said the Israelis were members of a technical delegation that took part in the economic conference and were at the conference as observers only and stressed that the Israelis were invited by UNESCAP and not the Indonesian government. Israel and Indonesia do not have diplomatic ties, and Nadai said that this visit was the first time in the last five years that Israeli diplomats visited Jakarta. Indonesia is not completely unchartered water for Israel, however. When Silvan Shalom was foreign minister he met with the Indonesian foreign minister in September 2005 at the United Nations. He spoke often of 10 Islamic countries that were on the verge of establishing ties with Israel and Indonesia was considered one of the countries he had in mind. In January 2005, Foreign Ministry director-general Ron Prosor flew on an El Al plane that carried some 75 tons of aid for Indonesian victims of the tsunami disaster, which was the first public contact between Israel and Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim country, in years. The hope was that the gesture would break the ice with Jakarta. Shimon Peres visited there in the summer of 2000, when he was regional cooperation minister, and met with then President Abdurrahman Wahid, with whom he had struck up a relationship. Wahid is on the international board of the Peres Peace Center. Peres's visit was preceded by an Israeli trade delegation that visited Indonesia, and an Indonesian trade delegation came to Israel. These types of contacts, however, were frozen following the outbreak of the Palestinian violence in September 2000, when Egypt and Jordan recalled their ambassadors, and other Arab countries cut off their ties with Israel. Yitzhak Rabin paid a surprise visit there in 1993 on his way home from a visit to China.