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Australian PM to Meet Indonesian President as Tensions Ease

FILE - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, September 30, 2013.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will meet Australia's prime minister this week, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Monday, a sign of eased relations between the neighbors.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit will be the first since late last year, when often tense relations hit a new low over media revelations that Australia had spied on top Indonesian officials, including the president and his wife.

“The meeting will give a chance to both leaders to review the status of the relationship at this time,” Natalegawa told reporters. “The ball is in Australia's court to exlain the problem of wiretapping and asylum seekers.”

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Natalegawa said.

Ties have also been strained over the handling of asylum seekers who attempt to sail to Australia via Indonesia. Australia has started implementing a “turn back the boats”, towing back to Indonesia often leaky vessels carrying asylum seekers, a practice Natalegawa criticizes as “unhelpful”.

Indonesia suspended military and police cooperation over preventing asylum seekers from traveling to Australia in the aftermath of the spying scandal. Yudhoyono in December presented a six-point plan for restoring good relations, including a code of conduct on intelligence matters.

Indonesia's ambassador is expected to return to his post in Canberra by the end of May, after having been recalled as the diplomatic rift deepened over the spying claims.

Abbott is scheduled to continue on to France, Canada and the United States, the prime minister's office said.