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Indonesia, Australia Sign Security Agreement

Indonesia and Australia have signed a security agreement that provides a broad framework for greater cooperation between the two nations.

Indonesia and Australia's foreign ministers signed a security agreement on the Indonesian island of Lombok aimed at increasing security, intelligence, and defense cooperation between the two nations.

The pact signals closer ties between two countries that have experienced a long history of thorny relations.

Indonesia's presidential spokesman Dino Djalil called the security agreement a "milestone" in relations between Jakarta and Canberra.

"This treaty will be a milestone in the geo-political relationship between Indonesia and Australia because it covers a lot of issues," he explained. "It covers terrorism, it covers defense cooperation, it covers people smuggling issues, and a lot of the other issues that constitute the complex and comprehensive security relationship between Indonesia and Australia."

Relations between the two countries hit rock bottom in 1999 after Australia led a peacekeeping force into East Timor to quell violence that broke out after the tiny nation voted for independence from Indonesia.

Even though political ties gradually improved between the two nations, relations were once again strained early this year when Australia gave visas to a boatload of 42 asylum seekers from Indonesia's troubled province of Papua.

The agreement formally recognizes each nation's sovereignty. This is a nod to Indonesian fears of Australian intervention in issues such as Papua and human rights that Indonesia sees as its domestic affairs. The clause proclaiming Indonesia's territorial integrity over its sprawling archipelago was demanded by Jakarta.

Presidential spokesman Dino Djalil says the security agreement is a positive development for relations between the two nations.

"It reinforces our view that the security of Indonesia and Australia are inter-related and it elevates the cooperation between the two countries into a higher level, a level based on trust and common interest and cooperative security," he said.

Aside from security, defense, and intelligence cooperation, the pact also includes agreements to share technology, combat illegal fishing, and to cooperate on immigration and border controls in a joint battle against people smuggling.