JAKARTA (Bloomberg): Indonesia Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto defended a new peace proposal for Ukraine that would leave Russian occupying forces in place, saying Asian nations know the costs of war as well or better than their European counterparts.
"We in Asia, we’ve had our share of conflict,” Prabowo said at the Shangri-La Dialogue defence forum on Saturday (June 3).
"Maybe more, more disastrous, more bloody than what’s being experienced in Ukraine.”
Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who was at the meeting, said the idea of freezing Russian and Ukrainian troops in their current positions, and creating a militarised zone between them, "sounds like a Russian plan, not an Indonesian plan.”
Prabowo, a two-time presidential candidate, said Indonesia wasn’t trying to take sides on who is right or wrong in the conflict, and he reiterated that his nation voted at the United Nations to oppose Russia’s invasion. But he said a cessation of hostilities in the conflict was essential, rattling off a list of Asian and African countries that have suffered from war in recent decades.
"Ask our Vietnamese friends, our Vietnamese brothers, ask our Cambodian brothers, ask them how many times they’ve been invaded,” Prabowo said.
"Ask Indonesians how many times they’ve been invaded. We know war. We want to resolve, we want to help, but again its up to the two parties. What is the United Nations for if not conflict resolution.”
Prabowo’s proposal appeared to have many similarities to a Chinese peace blueprint that has been largely rejected in Europe, partly because it would leave Russian forces in control of Ukrainian territory seized soon after the invasion in February 2022.
The suggested demilitarised zone would extend 15km (9 miles) from each party’s forward position, and would be monitored by a UN-deployed peacekeeping force.
"Russia is now trying to disrupt Ukraine’s counteroffensive in any way,” Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a lengthy Facebook post.
"Russia must get away from Ukrainian lands and Ukraine has to restore its territorial integrity in internationally recognised borders. There can be no alternative,” he added, saying that a ceasefire without troop withdrawal "will allow Russia to win time” ahead of "a new wave of aggression.”
Nonetheless, Nikolenko said, Ukraine "values the attention Indonesia paid to the issue of restoring peace” and said Jakarta should sign on to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s peace formula.
The former head of the Indonesian army’s special forces, Prabowo was fired from the military for his role in violence against pro-democracy activists following former leader Suharto’s fall in 1998, and subsequently denied a visa from the US. The Trump administration granted Prabowo a visa and welcomed him to the US in 2020.
In his remarks on Saturday, Prabowo - who also met with current Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin in Singapore - said Indonesia’s military was "one of the few examples in the world” of generals voluntarily withdrawing from politics, adding that he again planned to run for president in next year’s election.