Updated: 12/15/2013 16:28 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian PM rounds on 'singularly unhelpful' Indonesia

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott rounded on neighbouring Indonesia Sunday, accusing it of being "singularly unhelpful" by suspending cooperation to combat people-smuggling due to a diplomatic row over phone-tapping.

Australian PM rounds on 'singularly unhelpful' Indonesia

Protesters burn pictures of Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott over claims that Australian spies targeted the phone of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta on November 26, 2013

Abbott called on Jakarta to resume collaboration on the stream of asylum-seekers transiting through the Southeast Asian nation, in critical remarks little more than a week after a fence-mending visit to Indonesia by his foreign minister.

Indonesia halted cooperation to stem people-smuggling last month after reports -- based on leaks from intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden -- that Australia had tried to bug the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and members of his inner circle in 2009.

The revelation sparked one of the worst diplomatic crises between the strategic allies in years, with Indonesia recalling its ambassador to Australia and suspending military and immigration collaboration. 

"There's no doubt that the suspension of cooperation by the Indonesian authorities has been unhelpful, it's been singularly unhelpful," Abbott told reporters at a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office.

"Given that people-smuggling is a crime in Indonesia, just as it's a crime in Australia, I think it's high time that that cooperation was resumed."

People-smuggling is a politically sensitive issue in Australia and one of Abbott's key promises before his September election victory was to "Stop the Boats", the majority of which originate in Indonesia.

Abbott's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop travelled to Jakarta last week to smooth ties after the espionage row, expressing "regret" and agreeing to a bilateral code of conduct to restore trust.

Bishop's counterpart Marty Natalegawa said cooperation between the nations would resume when the code of conduct was finalised.

"In the end", Abbott said Australia accepted that "what Indonesia does is a matter for Indonesia and what Australia does is a matter for Australia".

"We absolutely respect Indonesia's sovereignty, we expect Indonesia to respect our sovereignty. As far as we're concerned, these illegal boats that are coming to Australia are a sovereignty issue."

Hundreds of asylum-seekers have died attempting to make the perilous voyage from Indonesia to Australia on rickety and overcrowded fishing boats -- most recently on Monday when a Bangladeshi and two Myanmar citizens including a toddler died in a sinking off Java.

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn



facebook recommendations


  • 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