Indonesian president to visit Australia this weekend

Indonesian president to visit Australia this weekend
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right).
PHOTO: Reuters and AFP

Indonesian President Joko Widodo will head to Australia this weekend for his first visit as head of state to a key ally whose relationship with Jakarta has been repeatedly strained in recent years.

Widodo, accompanied by a number of cabinet ministers, will visit Sydney on Saturday and Sunday for the state visit, during which he will hold talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the foreign ministry in Jakarta said.

It is his first official trip to Australia since being elected president in 2014.

Ties between the neighbours have been rocky in recent years due to Jakarta's execution of Australian drug smugglers and Canberra's policy of turning migrant boats back to Indonesia, but improved after Turnbull took office in 2015.

Read also: Indonesia has only suspended language programme with Australia - minister

"This visit is very important for us because it shows how close we are as neighbours," foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanantha Nasir said Thursday.

In a statement, Turnbull said that the "bilateral relationship with Indonesia is vitally important to both countries and has never been stronger".

Widodo had originally been scheduled to visit in November but was forced to cancel the trip to deal with the aftermath of a violent mass demonstration against Jakarta's Christian governor.

Turnbull will host a private dinner for Widodo and Indonesian first lady Iriana Widodo, said Nasir.

The leaders will discuss issues including investment, terrorism and cyber-security, as well as Widodo's wish to expand teaching of the Indonesian language in Australia, he said.

Widodo will also meet with Australian businessmen and Indonesians living in Sydney.

The latest row between the neighbours erupted in January when Indonesia announced it was suspending some military co-operation after teaching materials deemed offensive to Jakarta were found at an Australian army base.

Australia sent its army chief to Jakarta earlier this month to apologise over the affair.

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