Australia scrambles to mend ties with Indonesia

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Canberra, Jan 5 (IANS) Australia on Thursday scrambled to repair relations with Indonesia, following a decision by the Asian nation to suspend military cooperation between the countries, a media report said.

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed the news on Thursday and said she was working hard to deal with the situation.

The situation came about after Indonesian defence officials found “offensive” material at a base in Perth in November.

The suspension has reportedly been in effect since December 29, 2016, however it was only confirmed by Payne on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.

She said the government was “addressing” the concerns of their Indonesian counterparts and added that she was hopeful of resuming bilateral cooperation as soon as possible.

“Well I would hope that the conclusion of the inquiry when we’re able to indicate to Indonesia the steps that have been taken in Australia to address any of these concerns,” Payne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.

“I’ve written to (the Indonesian Defence Minister) again in January to indicate that the inquiry is underway and he has indicated that he has received that. We’ll be able to discuss resuming the relationship across the board then.”

Despite the rift in relations, Payne said ties with Indonesia remained strong on a number of other and key regional issues, such as counter-terrorism and illegal immigration.

“The breadth of (the Australian-Indonesian) relationship is very important,” Payne said.

It was important to know that they continued their work in relation to the prospect of returning foreign fighters from the Middle East who’d been associated with the extremist activities of (Islamic State) and their counterparts, she said.

“We co-operate very seriously on that (and on) immigration. All those things remain very sound,” she said.

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