Abbott seeks to ease tensions in Indonesia
By Angela Dewan, AFPJAKARTA--Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted Monday that his country has “total respect” for Indonesia's sovereignty after his tough refugee policies, including towing asylum-seekers' boats back to Indonesia, sparked anger.
October 1, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
As his government back home defended itself from criticism over a deadly asylum boat sinking off Indonesia last week, the visiting Australian leader and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sought to present a united front on the issue despite recent tensions.
Abbott picked Indonesia for his first overseas trip since becoming premier as he tries to bolster ties with Asia. But the visit has been overshadowed by his hardline policies and Friday's deadly boat accident.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa had led a series of complaints from officials and lawmakers that Abbott's tow-back policy, part of his “stop the boats” campaign, could infringe Indonesian sovereignty.
But following talks with Yudhoyono in the presidential palace in Jakarta, Abbott struck a far more conciliatory tone than he had used during the election campaign.
“I do want to stress publicly as well as privately ... Australia's total respect for Indonesia's sovereignty, a total respect for Indonesia's territorial integrity,” he said at a joint press conference with Yudhoyono.
Abbott said he and Yudhoyono had “very frank discussions” and wanted to “end this scourge” of people-smuggling.
“We are resolved together, united, to tackle this problem and to beat it, on land and at sea, at the borders of our countries,” he said.