RI tells Oz plane access is limited to rescues
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Indonesia is warning Australia not to abuse the defense and maritime cooperation agreement between the nations that provides freer access for Australian aircraft to enter Indonesian airspace.
Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono said that government-to-government discussions on improving search and rescue (SAR) efforts in Indonesian waters have been under way.
The agreement will give Australian aircraft rapid clearance to enter Indonesian airspace to assist in search and rescue operations. If necessary, the Australian planes will be allowed to land and refuel at Indonesian airfields instead of making long journeys back to Australian airports.
Agus, however, said that the easier access would be granted under strict conditions.
“It is only for helping people and saving lives, and not for any other purposes,” the admiral said.
Defense Ministry chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin said that Australian aircraft would still need to report to Indonesian authorities and ask for permission before entering the nation’s airspace.
The agreement was developed after several boats carrying migrants sank in waters between Indonesia and Australia. More than 300 people have lost their lives in the treacherous seas between Indonesia and the Australian territory of Christmas Island since last December.
Hartind previously said that Australian naval vessels would also be granted access to Indonesian waters for humanitarian purposes.
Even though Australian ships will be allowed to cross the nation’s maritime borders, there will still be specific zones that will be off-limits, officials said.
Hartind said that the easier access to be granted to Australian ships and aircraft would not affect Indonesian sovereignty.
“The rules of engagement must be set out in detail and comprehensively, because sovereignty is non-negotiable for all countries,” he said.
The agreement was the result of talks carried out during the Indonesia-Australia defense forum on Wednesday at the Defense Ministry that were attended by Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith.
The forum concluded by producing a six-item cooperation agreement in the maritime search and rescue sector that will be delivered through the existing Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package (ITSAP), which has been successfully running for the past five years.
Talks on cooperation in the maritime sector between Indonesia and Australia have been under way since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Darwin, Australia, on July 2.
At that meeting, the nations signed several agreements, including one that would grant four refurbished C-130H Hercules from the Australian government to Indonesia.
Two weeks later, more specific talks were carried out during a meeting between Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart, Bob Carr, in Jakarta, which focused on search and rescue preparations.
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