France pledges $2.6 billion for Indonesia as Hollande visits

French President Francois Hollande, right, accompanied by his Indonesian counterpart Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, center, inspects an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Hollande is on a two-day visit to the country as part of a regional tour to boost ties with Asia. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
French President Francois Hollande, left, talks with his Indonesian counterpart Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during a meeting at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Hollande is on a two-day visit to the country as part of a regional tour to boost ties with Asia. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
French President Francois Hollande, left, talks with his Indonesian counterpart Joko "Jokowi" Widodo before their joint press conference following a meeting at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Hollande is on a two-day visit to the country as part of a regional tour to boost ties with Asia. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
French President Francois Hollande, right, accompanied by his Indonesian counterpart Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, left, waves at school children in traditional dress waving the two nations' flags during a welcome ceremony at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Hollande is on a two-day visit to the country as part of a regional tour to boost ties with Asia. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
French President Francois Hollande, right, escorted by his Indonesian counterpart Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, inspects an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Hollande is on a two-day visit to the country as part of a regional tour to boost ties with Asia. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — France pledged $2.6 billion in investments for Indonesia and affirmed deepening ties with Southeast Asia's biggest economy during a visit Wednesday by President Francois Hollande.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo welcomed the new commitment by French investors to increase their involvement in the energy, infrastructure and retail industries.

Jokowi and Hollande witnessed the signing of five memorandums of understanding covering defense, sustainable urban development, research, technology and tourism, and also agreed to increase cooperation on maritime issues, fisheries and creative industries such as film and fashion.

"We have had a strategic partnership since 2011 and we want to deepen it through a number of agreements," Hollande said at a news conference. He said France is keen to boost the sale of Airbus jets to airlines in Indonesia, an archipelago of about 14,000 islands and more than 250 million people.

Hollande's two-day visit to Jakarta is the last leg of his Southeast Asian tour. He also visited Malaysia and Singapore. It is the first visit by a French head of state to Indonesia since 1986.

The two leaders said they support the "two-state solution" to ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine and acknowledged the importance of spreading the values of tolerance to combat extremism and terrorism.

Jokowi said he was grateful that the French government had not gone ahead with a plan to nearly triple a tax on palm oil to 300 euros ($327) a ton.

Palm oil is a booming industry in Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia, but is also notorious for the destruction of tropical forests and abuses in its plantation work force, which numbers 16 million people in Indonesia alone.

"We appreciate that the French government has not supported discriminatory treatment against Indonesian palm oil," Jokowi said.

Indonesia has a plan to make the palm oil industry sustainable, he said.

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