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May 27, 2017

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Australia says Indonesia is free to raise asylum policy with US secretary of state

SYDNEY -- Australia said Jakarta was free to bring up Canberra's hardline asylum-seeker policy with the United States after the Indonesian foreign minister was reported as saying he would raise the issue with the visiting U.S. Secretary of State.

Australia's "Operation Sovereign Borders" — which sees asylum-seeker boats turned back as a deterrent to people-smugglers — has tested ties between Canberra and Indonesia, a major transit hub for would-be refugees from countries including Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the policy was "against the values of humanity" and that he intends to raise the matter with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Australia's ABC television reported.

Kerry arrived in Indonesia Saturday for a two-day trip as part of an Asia tour in which he also visited Seoul and Beijing.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told ABC on Sunday that Indonesia was "welcome" to raise the asylum-seekers issue with the United States.

The outcome of such talks would be a "matter for Secretary Kerry, it's also a matter for the Indonesians. I'm sure they'll have a lot to talk about during his visit," he said.

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