Aussie PM invites Indonesia to roundtable


SYDNEY — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Wednesday said he expects ties with Indonesia to emerge stronger from a spying row and suggested a security roundtable to build trust, but would not commit to a code of ethics. Abbott was responding after Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono struck a conciliatory tone late Tuesday after receiving a letter from the Australian leader aimed at limiting fallout from the espionage allegations. “It was a very warm statement. It was a statement that was very positive about Australia,” Abbott said of Yudhoyono’s reaction.

“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.” Claims that Australian spies tried to listen to the phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and his inner circle in 2009 surfaced last week, and sparked one of the worst diplomatic crises between the two strategic allies in years. Jakarta reacted furiously, ending cooperation on military exercises and in the key area of people-smuggling while recalling its ambassador from Canberra. Indonesia was further infuriated by Abbott’s failure to apologize or offer what it saw as a clear explanation. Yudhoyono said Abbott’s letter contained a “commitment from the Australian PM that Australia will not do anything in the future that will disadvantage or disturb Indonesia.” This, he said, was “a very important point.” He added that Abbott supported his proposal to come up with “protocols” and a code of ethics to govern relations between the neighbors that were “clear, fair and abided to.” Abbott called Yudhoyono “a great president,” but he declined to immediately commit to a spying code of ethics when directly asked if he supported one. “It’s very important that we bring a positive out of the difficulties of the last week or so, and that’s my objective: to ensure that the relationship with Indonesia emerges stronger from this than it previously was,” he said in response.

“We’ve had a very, very good relationship with Indonesia going back for many years; it was particularly strong under former Prime Minister (John) Howard. I’m determined to build on that and, as I said, to bring something positive out of the difficulties of the last week or so.” Abbott suggested a security roundtable be established to ensure closer cooperation and transparency. “What I’d like to see some time in the future is some sort of security roundtable where we are more open with each other, where we build even stronger relationships and trust,” he said. “I want Australia to be Indonesia’s trusted partner, just as I want Indonesia to be our trusted partner.”