Indonesia, Australia to Settle Problems of Asylum Seekers, Wiretapping

JAKARTA ~

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will meet in Batam on Wednesday to settle the asylum seeker and wiretapping issues that often strained relations between the two countries.

“The strategic relations between the two countries are often constrained due to the asylum seeker and wiretapping issues. The meeting of the two heads of government is expected to normalize cooperation,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said here on Tuesday.

He told Commission I of the House of Representatives (DPR) the Palace had previously informed that the meeting between Yudhoyono and Tony Abbott would be informal on the sidelines of the Quranic Reading contest in Batam.

The Batam meet will be the first in the highest forum of the two countries since the revelation last year of wiretapping by the Australian Intelligence Agency of Indonesian high state officials.

The relations between the two countries became more and more heated fueled by the anti-immigrant program of Abbott. In the past several months, Australia expelled asylum seekers who were leaving for that country on ships and forced them to return to Indonesia.

According to Marty, the two issues should be settled before the relations between the two countries returned to normal, and he firmly stated that Australia was the party responsible for that.

“For us, it is clear that it is Australia that caused this problem to emerge. Regarding the asylum seekers, this issue should have united us (RI and Australia) but Australia’s expulsion policy of asylum seekers’ ships separated us,” the Indonesian foreign minister said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to meet with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott when they visit the Indonesian island of Batam.

The meeting will be a follow up to the telephonic talks between the two leaders on the sideline of the Open Government Partnership Conference held in Bali on May 6, 2014, Teuku Faizasyah, President Yudhoyono’s special aide for international affairs, said in a press release on Tuesday.

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