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Abbott stresses ‘respect for Indonesian sovereignty’

Australian PM says two countries ‘are determined to end scourge’ of people-smuggling after Jakarta talks

Australia's PM Tony Abbot and Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang YudhoyonoAfter weeks of escalating tensions over his hardline “stop the boats” policies, Tony Abbott’s first official visit as prime minister to Jakarta on Monday was marked by a “collegial” tone.

Speaking with Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the state palace, Abbott dropped talk of turning the boats around, instead emphasising his commitment to respecting the sovereignty of Australia’s northern neighbour.

Abbott said he had a frank conversation about issues of sovereignty – including the restive province of West Papua – and the talks were “candid, constructive, and collegial”.

“Australia has total respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Abbott, stressing a collaborative, approach to addressing the asylum seeker problem.

“We are resolved together united to tackle this problem and to beat it, on land and at sea, and at the borders of our countries.”

Abbott campaigned hard prior to his election on the promise that he could stop the flow of asylum seeker boats, but his policies to meet this pledge have been the subject of criticism and derision by Indonesian politicians.

Under the so-called Operation Sovereign Borders, Abbott has proposed turning asylum seeker boats around “when safe to do so”, as well as buying boats from Indonesian fishermen and offering them financial incentives for key information about people-smuggling operations.

The Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, had been reported as saying he rejected Abbott’s plans. However, after Monday’s meeting, Natalegawa was diplomatic about future co-operation.

Saying the leaked transcript of his conversation with the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, last week was “behind us”, Natalegawa said that mutual respect for sovereignty would underscore any future agreements on asylum seekers.

Greeted by an Indonesian marching band performing a brassy rendition of the Australian anthem on the palace lawn, Abbott emerged from his meeting with Yudhoyono championing a unified front to combat people smuggling.

“We are determined to end this scourge, which is not just an affront to our two countries but which has so often become a humanitarian disaster in our seas between our two countries,” he said.

Touching on the issue of asylum seekers, President Yudhoyono said that Australia and Indonesia were both “victims” of people smugglers, and that asylum seekers were both an economic and social burden.

Each year thousands of asylum seekers fleeing from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar transit through Indonesia, where they pay people smugglers to ferry them to Australian territory.

Discussing other aspects of the bilateral relationship, Yudhoyono noted that trade between the two countries increased 700% from 2011-2012, and the countries have targeted bilateral trade to hit $15bn in the near future.

Abbott who is accompanied by Bishop, his trade and investment minister, Andrew Robb, and a delegation of Australian businessmen, also stressed the need for greater trade and investment ties.

Abbott praised Indonesia’s democratic transition and thriving economy, noting that in the past Australia had made economic policy mistakes. In an apparent reference to a Labor decision to end live cattle exports he said Australia should “never again take actions that would jeopardise the food supply”.

He continued to apologise for Labor policies at an official dinner in Jakarta later on. He said: “There have been times, I’m sorry to say, when Australia must have tried your patience, when we ‘put the sugar on the table’ for people smugglers, or cancelled the live cattle trade in panic at a TV programme.

“There have been times when all sides of Australian politics should have said less and done more.

“I am confident that these will soon seem like out-of-character aberrations and that the relationship will once more be one of no surprises, based on mutual trust, dependability and absolute respect for each other’s sovereignty under the Lombok treaty.”

As part of his Colombo plan – an initiative to encourage more Australians to study in Asia – Abbott also highlighted the need to strengthen people to people links, and encourage Australia’s best and brightest to fully participate in the Asian Century.

Envisaging continued strong ties between Indonesia and Australia, Abbott said the “best days” of their relationship lay ahead.

Source: The Guardian

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Filed under Economy, International Relation, Papua

Australian won’t bow to Papua pressure, FM says

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia has been “explicit” in its support for Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua.

Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr

Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr

Senator Carr told Newsline the provinces have been recognised “by all the nations in the earth” as Indonesian territory.
(See the video)

“There are Australians, a very small number I think…who take an interest in the notion for more autonomy for Papua but I remind them that you’d be doing a disservice to the Indonesian population of those two provinces if you held out any hope that Australia could influence the cause of events,” he said.

The Foreign Minister has dismissed suggestions public pressure would cause Australia to change its policy on Papua’s autonomy.

“I just ask those idealistic Australians who might entertain some other arrangement, that what would be the cost in terms of our friendship with Indonesia and in terms of our budget of a different arrangement.

“It’s inconceivable, utterly inconceivable.”

‘Australians seen as Asians’

The Foreign Minister says Australia’s relationship with Indonesia involves a “habit of consultation” – a relationship it enjoys with a number of its Asian neighbours including Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

“We had the Singaporeans through in recent weeks and again we have common approaches to issues like the South China Sea, he said.

“A comfortable alignment of our foreign policy positions.”

He also countered criticisms Australia’s perceptions of Asia are superficial and too “Eurocentric” in response to the recently-released Asian Century policy paper.

“The foreign minister of Myanmar was through here last week and he said..’We see Australia as Asians’,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t he? We were there in Myanmar lifting, not just suspending our sanctions.”

Senator Carr says the fact Australia won a seat on the United Nations Security Council is also testament of its strong relationship with its neighbours.

“I was struck by this when I stood there in the UN and I was being congratulated by nations from every region in the world and it dawned on me that they’re comfortable with Australia and that reflects our diplomacy,” he said.

Source: Australia Network News

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Filed under International Relation, Papua, Separatism

Indonesia welcomes Foreign NGOs in Papua

NGOs could benefit the province, without embarking on political activities supporting separatism or violating agreements.

Indonesia still opens its door to NGOs that want to operate in Papua, as long as they benefit the people without involvement in politics and commercial activities, an official says.

Sunu M. Soemarno, director for Socio-Culture and International Organizations at the Foreign Ministry, said the government through an inter-department meeting including his office, the Social Services Ministry and intelligence bodies, police and the State Secretariat, will decide and review whether NGOs can help build Papua.

If the meeting found that NGOs could benefit the province, without embarking on political activities supporting separatism or violating agreements agreed upon beforehand with ministry partners, the government would hand out permits or extend permits to NGOs.

“We have approved the operation of 14 foreign NGOs in Papua while we expand scope of operations for two others based on this criteria.” Soemarno told the press.

Regarding the ban against a Dutch funding organization, Cordaid to operate in Papua, based on input from other departments, the organization had violated its agreement with its government partner, the Social Services Ministry.

Cordaid has been being a shareholder of Bank Andara and sponsoring the participation of a community group in the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a forum that supports secessionist movements in southern Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Indonesia government requested Cordaid, which has operated for 30 years in Indonesia, to hand over ongoing projects to its local partners and not expand the scope of the projects or extend deadlines.

Cordaid, however, could reapply for the permit, and provide evidence to the Social Services Ministry that the organization had no intention of supporting separatism, and that its operation in Indonesia had provided many benefits to Papuans.

Cordaid said in its letter to the Social Services Ministry that it never supported separatist activities, while asserting it had gradually relinquished its 10 percent share in Andara.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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Filed under Papua, Separatism