November 8, 2023
JAKARTA – Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi is laying the initial groundwork for an extraordinary Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting set for Saudi Arabia next week, as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to worsen.
Now entering its fifth week, the death toll in Gaza has hit a dark milestone. The Palestinian health ministry on Monday said that over 10,000 people had been killed in the indiscriminate Israeli airstrikes, which began on Oct. 7 as a retaliation against a surprise assault launched by Hamas, the ruling militant group of Palestine.
The OIC, composed of 57 countries worldwide, has issued several statements in the last month condemning the ongoing Israeli aggression, holding Tel Aviv “fully responsible” and calling for the immediate withdrawal of force as well as the facilitation of supplies entering the besieged Gaza Strip.
On Monday, the OIC announced in a statement that it would hold an extraordinary summit on Sunday to “discuss the brutal Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people”, a meeting summoned by the group’s chair Saudi Arabia.
Retno, who attended on Monday the OIC international conference on women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said on her social media account that she had met with her Saudi Arabian counterpart Faisal bin Farhan and Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al Khater to prepare for the special meeting.
Qatar has been placed by the United States as among its major allies, yet it is also a regional power in the Middle East with influence over Hamas, and home to the Al Jazeera media network, whose coverage of the Gaza siege has reportedly irked Washington.
Saudi Arabia on the other hand had been flirting with the idea of normalizing its ties with Israel before Oct. 7, a prospect now being reconsidered by Riyadh, according to some news reports.
At the OIC conference on women, Retno once again reiterated Indonesia’s strong condemnation of Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip, calling for the organization to unite and deliver more impactful statements.
“As we speak, thousands of Palestinian women in Gaza are suffering. We must not forget their plight,” Retno said. “We cannot let this continue. We must send a stronger message.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who confirmed on Monday his attendance at the coming OIC extraordinary summit, said the OIC was looking to invite several non-Muslim countries it considered to be on the same page with the organization, such as China, Russia, Bolivia, Ireland and Brazil.
“Brazil seems to be of the same stand but we have to discuss [the invitations], as a consensus is needed on attendance,” Anwar said, as quoted by The Star. “If not, only Muslim nations will meet.”
In mid-October, the OIC held an emergency meeting on the Gaza Strip. Amid calls for stronger penalties against Israel, such as Iran’s suggestion of an oil embargo, the organization issued a communiqué defending Palestine’s right to independence, as well as “deploring the international position that backs the [Israeli] brutal aggression” through “impunity” and “double standards”.