Abbott aiming to mend ties with Jakarta

Updated: 2014-06-05 07:01

By Agence France-Presse in Sydney, Australia (China Daily)

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Security, intelligence deals expected to combat 'spread of jihadist terrorism'

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday he hopes to seal security and intelligence pacts with Indonesia as he looks to repair ties hurt by spying allegations.

Abbott, admitting there had been "rough patches" in the "critically important relationship", was due to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Abbott aiming to mend ties with Jakarta

In November, ties sank to their lowest point in years after reports of Australian spies trying to tap the phones of Yudhoyono and his inner circle.

Jakarta described the actions as "mind-boggling" and recalled its ambassador from Australia, who only returned last month, while suspending cooperation in several areas.

This included cooperation on people-smuggling, another sensitive topic, with Jakarta unhappy over Canberra's military-led operation to stem the flow of boat people, who mostly make the journey from Indonesia.

Abbott said he was determined to put the relationship back on track in his meeting with Yudhoyono on the Indonesian island of Batam.

"There have been some rough patches in the relationship with Indonesia over the last nine months or so," he said, adding that some of the difficulties arose before he took office.

"I am proposing to deal with that today."

At the height of the damaging spying revelations, Yudhoyono said a code of conduct to govern behavior must be established.

Abbott said he was confident this would happen.

"The discussions with President Yudhoyono will be fairly broad-ranging, and I'm hoping that at some time in the not-too-distant future, we can have a security, an intelligence memorandum of understanding," he said.

"I think it is important that we have an intelligence-sharing memorandum of understanding between Australia and Indonesia because we have a lot of shared intelligence and security interests."

He said this was not just about combating people-smuggling, but also "combating the spread of jihadist terrorism" amid concerns about people returning from fighting in Syria "radicalized and militarized".

Both countries have seen nationals head to Syria to fight in the conflict. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Tuesday that the code of conduct was in Australia's hands.

"We are waiting for the Australian side, for their response," he said. "It's very simple, in a way a no-brainer. It essentially says the two countries commit to not undertaking irregular surveillance activities."

The meeting on Batam came a day after Indonesia admitted that reporters had been allowed to listen in on a phone call between Yudhoyono and Abbott last month aimed at improving relations, in an apparent protocol breach.

Jakarta said it was a mistake, while Abbott brushed off the incident.

After the meeting on Batam, Abbott was heading to France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and then to Canada and the United States.

(China Daily 06/05/2014 page11)