JAKARTA – Saudi King Salman Wednesday began the first visit by a Saudi monarch to Indonesia in almost 50 years, seeking to strengthen economic ties with the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
The king — who is accompanied by about 1,000 people, including princes and ministers — disembarked from his official plane at a Jakarta airport and was welcomed by President Joko Widodo and a guard of honour.
Almost 460 tons of equipment have been flown in for the visit, including Mercedes limousines and escalators for the king to descend from his plane. Most has been transported to the resort island of Bali, where the king will take a holiday after visiting Jakarta.
It is the first visit by a Saudi Arabian king to Indonesia for 47 years, and is one of the highlights of a rare Saudi royal tour of Asia which is seeking investment as the world’s biggest oil exporter tries to diversify its economy.
“This is an extremely historic visit for us,” Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung was quoted as saying in local media before the visit.
Salman will hold talks later with Widodo at the Indonesian leader’s official residence in Bogor outside the capital Jakarta. The king will give a speech to parliament on Thursday.
Business deals could be announced, and a series of cooperation memoranda are also set to be signed on issues ranging from security, to health and education during the three-day visit to Jakarta.
Indonesia will also seek approval to send more citizens to the annual hajj pilgrimage in western Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites.
Salman will spend several days on Hindu-majority Bali, with the monarch and his entourage reportedly set to stay in five luxury hotels.
Salman kicked off his three-week Asian tour in Malaysia earlier this week, and is also set to visit Japan, China and the Maldives.