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Australian foreign minister to sign security pact in Indonesia next week CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA) - The Australian foreign minister will visit Indonesia next week to sign a security pact the government says signals an end to diplomatic rows over East Timor and Papuan asylum seekers, a statement said Friday. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will visit the island of Lombok on Monday to sign the Australia-Indonesia Agreement on the Framework for Security Cooperation with his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, according to a statement released by Downer's office.

The agreement will replace a bilateral defense treaty torn up by the Indonesians in 1999 when Australia led international troops into East Timor to restore order after the former Indonesian province's bloody independence ballot. The new pact, which will formally recognize Indonesia's sovereignty over its sprawling archipelago, also comes after Canberra outraged Jakarta earlier this year by accepting the refugee claims of 43 asylum seekers from the restive province of Papua.

Jakarta temporarily recalled its ambassador from Australia after the Papuans, who were involved in the province's separatists movement, were accepted as refugees despite Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's personal assurances that they would not be harmed if they returned. Earlier this week, Prime Minister John Howard welcomed the pact, under negotiation for two years.

"I think it's a manifestation of the balance and maturity of the relationship," Howard told reporters Wednesday. "It does show that our relationship has moved on and absorbed some of the adversities surrounding it, arising out of East Timor and more recently out of the 43 asylum seekers," he added.



Posted in Politics @ 10 November 2006 02:50 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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