Updated: 05/03/2014 14:38 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian PM cancels Indonesia trip

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Saturday cancelled a trip to Indonesia amid reports that an asylum seeker turnback operation was underway that could renew tensions between the neighbours.


Australian PM cancels Indonesia trip

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margaret at the ANZAC Day march at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on April 25, 2014 - by Saeed Khan

Abbott's office confirmed he no longer intended to travel to Bali on Tuesday for a meeting with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono but declined to go into the reasons for putting off the visit, which had been seen as a thawing of ties tested by recent rows over espionage and Australia's controversial refugee policies.

"The prime minister was hoping to attend the Open Government Partnership conference in Bali next week at the invitation of His Excellency President Yudhoyono. The prime minister is grateful for the invitation," a spokesman for Abbott told AFP.

"Unfortunately the prime minister is unable to attend at this time and he hopes to visit Indonesia to meet with the president at a mutually convenient time."

It would have been Abbott's first trip to Indonesia since damaging revelations in November that Australian spies attempted in 2009 to tap the phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and other members of his inner circle.

Jakarta reacted furiously to the news, recalling its ambassador and halting cooperation in key areas including defence and people-smuggling. Tensions were further inflamed by Canberra's military-led crackdown on asylum-seekers making their way to Australia by boat from Indonesia.  

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation next week's fence-mending trip was cancelled due to a people-smuggling vessel being intercepted in the sea corridor between the two countries under the "Operation Sovereign Borders" policy, where boats are turned back to Indonesia when it is safe to do so.

Citing government sources, the ABC said there were fears the mission would be an "embarrassment" to Yudhoyono if Abbott's visit went ahead.

The Australian government refuses to confirm or disclose details of its refugee turnback operations for security reasons.

The opposition Greens and Labor parties urged Abbott to reveal his reasons for cancelling the trip, accusing him of further damaging ties with Jakarta by doing so.

"It's ironic that the invitation to Indonesia was to a conference on open government and our prime minister won't tell us why he's rejected the invitation at this late stage," said Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek.

"It's very important the prime minister discloses the reason that he's not going, because Australians deserve to know why he's putting further pressure on the relationship with such an important neighbour."

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn

NEWS VIDEOS

MORE NEWS VIDEOS

facebook recommendations

LIVE NEWS RADIO STREAMING

  • 938 Live

    938LIVE is Singapore's only English news and talk station which transmits round the clock with an engaging and enticing spread of programmes on current affairs, health, business and lifestyle as well as news every half hour until midnight.

  • Capital 958


    95.8FM城市频道的前身是"第三广播网"。上个世纪30年代末,新加坡就有中文广播,一路走来经过不少政治,社会局势的改变,中文广播在本地一直扮演举足轻重的角色。