News / Asia

Australia Seeks to Mend Ties after Indonesia Spying Scandal

FILE - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Sept. 30, 2013.
FILE - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Sept. 30, 2013.
Phil Mercer
— Relations between Australia and Indonesia have soured in recent weeks over revelations that Australian spies tapped the phones of the Indonesian president and other top officials. This week, however, tensions started to ease with a flurry of diplomatic activity.
 
The row has affected cooperation over asylum seekers, trade, military cooperation and other issues and was kicked off when documents were released showing that Australia had spied on the Indonesian president, his wife and senior ministers. The scandal prompted Jakarta to suspend military and other cooperation, including efforts to combat trafficking gangs that ferry asylum seekers to Australia’s northern waters.
 
In a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reportedly promised to restore damaged relations.
 
Abbott’s letter has yet to be made public, but the Indonesian leader says it is an attempt to defuse the spying controversy.
 
“The commitment of the Prime Minister of Australia [is] that Australia will never do anything in the future that will bring disadvantage and disturb Indonesia,” said Yudhoyono.
 
The president also said that both countries will now devise a code of ethics to ensure relations are never destabilized in such a way again.
 
“I will assign the minister of foreign affairs or a special envoy to further and seriously discuss sensitive issues, including the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia after the tapping. For me, it's a requirement and a stepping stone,” continued Yudhoyono.
 
It is not known if Abbott has apologized to the Indonesians. The Australian Prime Minister’s initial refusal to explain why Canberra monitored the phones of senior officials prompted a furious reaction in Jakarta. There were noisy demonstrations held outside the Australian Embassy by nationalist groups.
 
Prime Minister Abbott has welcomed Indonesia’s attempts to broker a truce.
 
“What the president is proposing is that trusted envoys should meet in the next few days to resolve any outstanding issues in the relationship. I think that's a good way forward and I'm going to reflect on the statement over the next day or so and then we'll be responding more fully,” said Abbott.
 
Until the new code of ethics is formalized, bilateral cooperation on intelligence matters and people smuggling will remain suspended.
 
The Australian leader hopes the controversy will soon end.
 
“Obviously I want this to be resolved as quickly as possible. But I want it to be resolved on a strong and lasting basis. This has been a stressful week or so. In all relationships there are difficulties,” Abbott continued.
 
Despite Australia’s efforts to sooth tensions with its giant Muslim neighbor to the north, there are concerns that trade may suffer because of the spying scandal.
 
Brian Scott, the Acting Chief Executive of the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association, said that the recent controversy is worrying Australia’s beef industry.
 
“We would all be very naïve if we thought sovereign governments didn't gather information about each other. However with that said, our industry is the most significant partner with Indonesia with respect of trade between our two countries,” said Scott

“Further, we would sincerely hope that for the benefits of the Indonesian population, and our northern cattle producers, that the situation does not impact on our trade in the short term,” he continued.
 
Trade between the two Asia-Pacific partners is worth around $11 billion each year.
 
Analysts believe that the phone-tapping row could damage commercial ties.
 
Tim Harcourt from the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales believes short-term mistrust will eventually give way to longer-term harmony.
 
“For the most part though, I think Indonesia wants food security, wants our financial services, it wants our technology, it wants access to our education institutions. So in the long run they'll want a good steady relationship with Australia. But yeah, they will be a little bit reluctant at the moment to fast track any trade or bilateral investment deals,” said Harcourt.
 
The spying controversy is the most serious threat to bilateral ties since Canberra supported the secession of East Timor from Indonesia in the late 1990s.
 
Experts say that military cooperation and joint efforts to stem a steady flow of asylum seekers leaving the Indonesia islands by boat between Jakarta and Canberra could resume within a month or two.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid