Indonesia unsure about Australia's 'sincerity'

Indonesia unsure about Australia's 'sincerity'

INDONESIA - Presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah repeated on Sunday that Australia needed to ensure that it had the "sincere intention" to rebuild trust and confidence with Indonesia, required to normalize damaged relationships between Canberra and Jakarta.

Faizasyah made the comment in the wake of a controversial statement by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, suggesting that Canberra would not stop spying on Indonesia. The statement came only a day after Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pledged in Jakarta on Thursday that her government would never use its intelligence assets "in any way that could harm Indonesia."

He said that Indonesia needed to be assured that Australia's willingness to repair the damaged ties was genuine.

"We are not in a hurry to normalize Indonesia's relationship with Australia. The pace of the process will pretty much depend on whether we are able to be convinced that Canberra is really sincere in rebuilding trust and confidence in order to normalize the relationship for the future," Faizasyah told The Jakarta Post.

Speaking to Australian radio on Friday, Abbott denied Australia had agreed to stop collecting intelligence on Indonesia.

"Indonesia certainly hasn't agreed to stop collecting intelligence on Australia too. But we are close friends. We are strategic partners. I certainly want Australia to be a trusted partner of Indonesia and I hope Indonesia can be a trusted partner of Australia."

Abbott's comment was quick to trigger controversies as it came only a day after the much-anticipated meeting between Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Bishop. The outcome resulting from the meeting, which both claimed as "positive, productive and constructive," was said to be undermined by Abbott himself.

International law expert at the University of Indonesia Hikmahanto Juwana, who called Abbott's statement "provocative", suggested that the Prime Minister could have been unsatisfied with the outcome of the Marty-Bishop meeting.

"Abbott may have disagreed with Indonesia's methods of relationship normalization because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demands some conditions. He may have also been uncomfortable because Australia looks weak and dictated by Indonesia," he said.

Marty himself has played down the controversies, however. "I don't see anything inherently inconsistent with that kind of statement. Intelligence gathering and collection of information is something that countries do, but it must be done under a cooperative framework," he told ABC.

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