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Australia's Defense Minister Arrives in Indonesia for Talks

Australia's defense minister is in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to meet with senior Armed Forces officials. Robert Hill says Australia wants to rebuild military ties with Indonesia, but it is going to take time.

Defense Minister Robert Hill says both Australia and Indonesia are open to the idea of resuming military ties. "We're seeking to rebuild that on a step by step basis. We've had several meetings of senior officials over the last year. And I think the view of both countries is that there's no need to move too fast. We've got to understand each other's perspectives, build confidence in each other, and develop the defense relationship that way," Mr. Hill said.

Australia suspended military ties with Indonesia in 1999, in response to allegations that the Indonesian military played a role in the destruction of East Timor. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed in the days surrounding its vote for independence from Indonesia.

At that time, the relationship between the two nations came under heavy strain. Australia led the multinational peacekeeping mission deployed to East Timor to restore calm.

More recently, Australia and Indonesia have bickered over the problem of people-smuggling. Each side wanted the other to take responsibility for stopping thousands of illegal migrants from using Indonesia as a transit point to try to enter Australia illegally.

But last week, the two sides came together to host a people-smuggling conference attended by more than 30 nations.

The head of the Indonesian Armed Forces, Admiral Widodo Adi Sucipto, agrees that steps towards renewing defense ties should proceed slowly.