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April 29, 2017

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Australia rejects independence for Papuan provinces

SYDNEY -- Australia categorically rejected Papuan independence Sunday saying it could not lead to a viable nation and would "completely rupture" ties with Indonesia were Canberra to weigh in.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said public opinion in Australia was "in support of Indonesian sovereignty over the two Papuan provinces" and though Canberra pressed Jakarta on human rights in the region its own position was firm.

"Our opposition to Papuan secessionism is founded on pragmatism and principle," Carr told Sky News.

"The position in international law is Indonesian sovereignty, and while we make representations as required about human rights issues there ... we are unequivocal."

The issue was thrust into the spotlight last week when an Australian documentary crew raised questions about the involvement of Indonesian counter-terrorism police in the shooting of independence figure Mako Tabuni.

Canberra said it had appealed to Indonesia for a full and open inquiry into Tabuni's death and continued to press its neighbor on human rights in the restive province.

Carr on Sunday denied that Papuan independence was a matter of diplomatic concern between the nations but counseled Australians, particularly religious and trade union groups, against supporting the separatist movement.

"The cost of engaging at a serious level in that sort of activity would be a complete rupture in Australia-Indonesia relations," the foreign minister said.

"It would serve no good whatsoever because the nation that they would be seeking to create would not be viable, and were it to be created — and that is inconceivable — Australia would be picking up the bill."

Poorly armed separatist groups have for decades fought a low-level insurgency in resources-rich Papua, a Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in 1969 and granted special autonomy in 2001.

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