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Jakarta Post

Jokowi’s Australia visit back on track after tensions ease

  • Haeril Halim and Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, February 14, 2017   /  07:58 am
Jokowi’s Australia visit back on track after tensions ease Good friends: Timor Leste Strategic Planning and Investment Minister Xanana Gusmao (left to right) chats with Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto and Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi at Wiranto’s office in Jakarta on Monday, Feb. 13. During the meeting, both governments discussed unresolved land border issues. (Coordinating Ministry for Legal and Security Affairs/file) (Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs/file)

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is likely to make a much-awaited state visit to Australia at the end of this month, government officials say, reaffirming Indonesia’s commitment to maintaining good bilateral ties despite a rocky patch in its relationship with its neighbor earlier this year.

The upcoming state visit is aimed at improving the “already good relations” between the two countries, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi asserted.

“This is an important meeting given how Australia and Indonesia are close neighbors. The two countries have good and significant cooperation in the field of investment, education and trade,” Retno told reporters at the State Palace on Monday.

Both sides are currently seeking to fix an ideal date for the state visit but Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema suggested it might occur toward the end of the month.

Jokowi’s visit to Canberra will reciprocate Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s trip to Jakarta in November 2015. The President had previously delayed his journey to Australia following a violent rally in front of the State Palace on Nov. 4 last year.

Jakarta has partially suspended military cooperation with Canberra following a brouhaha over allegedly offensive teaching materials at a military training facility last October, but Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo accepted last week an apology offered by visiting Australian Army chief Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell.

Retno however insisted that neighborly relations were in a good state, signaling a possible thawing of ties in the near future.

Earlier in the day, the minister said Indonesia remained an important partner for Australia, as the number of inbound tourists exceeded 1 million, even though these were still concentrated in Bali.

“However, with the development of 10 [new] tourist destinations, we also want to encourage Australians to visit other parts of Indonesia,” she said after meeting Timor Leste Strategic Planning and Investment Minister Xanana Gusmao and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto at the security minister’s office.

Meanwhile, in the bilateral meeting, Timor Leste and Indonesia discussed land border points that still require resolution. “We have agreed to establish SOC [senior official consultation], a small group that will deliberate the technical matters on both countries’ understandings before reaching an agreement to conclude a resolution to the land borders,” Wiranto told journalists after the meeting.

The SOC, which consists of delegates from both countries, will begin its discussions on March 10 in Bali and the team should report the results of the meeting to both governments, Wiranto went on without providing further details on a deadline to which the SOC should adhere.

The Indonesian delegation will be led by the Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Asia-Pacific and Africa, Desra Percaya, while the Timor delegation will be led by Timor Leste deputy foreign minister Roberto Soares, Retno confirmed.

The current negotiations with Dili, although considered relatively swift compared to border disputes with other neighboring countries, have been mired in inefficiencies and a lack of progress.

Indonesia and Timor Leste have been negotiating their border since 2002, soon after the latter formalized its independence from Indonesia following a UNsupervised referendum held in 1999. Tama Salim contributed to the article.

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