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Jakarta Post

Indonesia, Australia strengthen ties over Bali Process

Indonesia, Australia strengthen ties over Bali Process Closer ties – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (left) meets with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during the third Australia-Indonesia 2+2 meeting in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 21, 2015. (Pool Photo via AP/Jason Reed)
Liza Yosephine
Jakarta   ●   Tue, March 22, 2016

Indonesia and Australia have taken steps to enhance their relationship ahead of the Bali Process meeting.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met on Monday with her Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, in preparation for the meeting scheduled to be held in Bali on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The meeting was considered evidence of a step forward in mending ties ahead of the countries' cochairmanship at the two-day event in Bali.

"[Our bilateral discussions] took a very positive turn, very progressive compared with the three months when we met in Sydney. And we have a very strong commitment," Retno said during a press conference following her bilateral meeting with Bishop at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta on Monday.

The Bali Process is an international forum established in 2002 to facilitate the handling of issues related to people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crime.

Retno said the two nations were set to begin final negotiations of the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which they are currently forging, by May.

Apart from trade and investment, she said, both ministers also took the opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in the fields of education, counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

"At government-to-government, business-to-business and people-to-people levels, this relationship will endure," Bishop said.

Both foreign ministers are cochairing the sixth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime (BRMC), known as the Bali Process.

Apart from the usual ministerial statement produced at the end of a Bali Process, this year’s meeting will see a new document released in the form of a declaration detailing an emergency response mechanism for people smuggling and human trafficking in the region.

The move is deemed necessary due to the humanitarian crisis experienced in the region last year caused by the sudden influx of irregular migration from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The anticipated Bali Process conference failed to materialize in 2015, due to tensions between the two countries related to Indonesia's move to execute drug convicts, including two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

In her visit to Indonesia, Bishop is scheduled to not only attend the Bali Process conference but also the inauguration of the new Australian Embassy in Jakarta and a newly opened Australian Consulate in Makassar. (ebf)