President Delays Europe Visit over Air Ban

JAKARTA ~ President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is delaying a visit to Europe early next year until the European Union lifts a ban on Indonesian carriers flying into its airspace, his spokesman said.

All 51 Indonesian airlines were officially banned in July from flying to the bloc after European safety experts declared they were unsafe following a series of crashes.

Yudhoyono normally flies on a plane from national carrier Garuda’s fleet.

“The president wants to make sure that … before he makes the trip to Europe that the airline ban is lifted. That’s politically appropriate and psychologically appropriate too,” spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said.

Djalal said a visit to several European nations, which he declined to specify, was supposed to happen some time in early 2008.

“A date was supposed to be set but his instructions were: ‘Let’s not set a date before the airline ban is lifted,'” he said.

“He will go there when the airline ban is lifted; it is a matter of principle for him.”

The next technical meeting that could see the Indonesian ban lifted was expected in January or February, he added.

The European Commission announced last month that it had kept Indonesian airlines on its list of banned carriers after a review in early November.

That announcement came less than a week after Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, insisted on a visit here that the ban was merely a “technical issue.”

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