Spying Scandal Update: Australian PM moves to ease diplomatic tensions

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Tony Abbott reassures Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono of Australia’s goodwill in a letter that hints at possible rapprochement between the two countries. Joanna Robin reports.

Photo: Josh Estey via Flickr

Photo: Josh Estey via Flickr

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for a “security round table” and says he wants the rebuild Australia’s relationship with Indonesia as quickly as possible.

The future of diplomatic relations was still on shaky ground at the end of last week following revelations that the Australian government had been spying on top Indonesian officials.

Related story: Spying scandal: the story so far

For those who may have missed it, Indonesia officially ‘downgraded’ the relationship between the two countries and suspended all bi-lateral relations last Thursday. Mr Abbott had repeatedly declined to apologise for the spying and provided no explanation for the government’s actions.

Despite this, he penned a personal letter to his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, over the weekend.

Australia will never do anything in the future that will bring disadvantage and disturb Indonesia,” – Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

The letter was hand delivered by former Army chief Peter Leahy, to convey “the utmost respect, befitting the importance of the subject matter and [the Prime Minister’s] high regard for President Yudhoyono”.

Mr Yudhoyono has revealed some details of the correspondence, which included assurances that Australia would not do anything to disadvantage or hurt relationships with Indonesia in the future.

“Australia will never do anything in the future that will bring disadvantage and disturb Indonesia,” he said.

Mr Abbott said that he will reflect on Mr Yudhoyono’s comments over the coming days and hoped further discussions would help build “stronger relationships and trust.”

Meld spoke to a number of Indonesian students in Australia who were disappointed by the Australian government’s initial response to the allegations.

RMIT student Allegra was concerned the scandal could affect the future of her studies in Australia.

“Somehow if their relationship cannot be fixed, I’m scared that the Indonesian government will force us to leave Australia and we won’t be able to go to uni here anymore,” she said.

She admitted she had not followed the story closely over the weekend but was now sure that the relationship would recover, though it would perhaps be weaker.

“Overall to be honest I’m not worried about my studies at all.”

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