Australian PM to visit Indonesia on first foreign trip

Australian PM to visit Indonesia on first foreign trip

SYDNEY - Australia's Tony Abbott makes his debut foreign trip as prime minister on Monday, visiting Indonesia where he will discuss asylum-seekers following the first deadly accident involving boat people since he took power.

Conservative Abbott - who won a comfortable victory in national polls earlier this month - has vowed to make Asia his main foreign policy focus and Indonesia, where hundreds of asylum-seekers have embarked on fatal sea crossings to Australia in recent years, is a priority.

"The government is determined to ensure that Australia's foreign policy is focussed on our region," he said Friday as he announced his September 30-October 1 visit to Jakarta, where he will meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"It is my hope that this visit establishes a convention for all future incoming prime ministers to make Jakarta their first port of call overseas," added Abbott who will be accompanied by a 20-member business delegation.

Abbott had promised to make Indonesia his first stop as prime minister saying he would not visit traditional allies Washington or London until he had visited capitals in Asia.

Australia has a strong relationship with Indonesia, but tensions have arisen over the sensitive issue of asylum-seeker boats, many of which depart from the sprawling archipelago to head for Australia.

Abbott campaigned hard on a "stop the boats" policy and has put into place a military-led operation known as Sovereign Borders, which intends to turn boats around when safe to do so - a policy Indonesia has suggested infringes its sovereignty.

Australian and Indonesian foreign ministers discussed the issue at a meeting in New York last week at which Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the measure could put cooperation on asylum-seekers at risk.

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