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Yudhoyono hopes to seal full agreement with Aussie PM

The Jakarta Post/ANN | Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hopes that he will be able to completely settle with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott the bilateral problems with Australia before his term ends in October, his spokesman indicated on Monday.

The President has apparently received strong indications that Australia is ready to sign a code of conduct (CoC), which Yudhoyono has demanded as a fundamental requirement to fully restore bilateral ties between the two distant neighbours.

Yudhoyono was outraged last year when WikiLeaks revealed in November that Australia had bugged the telephone communications of him, his wife Ani Yudhoyono and his top aides in 2007. Yudhoyono immediately suspended cooperation on maritime, defence and information, bringing Jakarta-Canberra ties to a record low since the late 1990s. He also recalled Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, who returned to his post a few months later.

The two countries, led by respective foreign ministers, have been undergoing negotiations on the draft of the code of conduct since November last year.

"We hope it [CoC] can be signed in the near future," presidential spokesman on foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The career diplomat said that Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop were scheduled to finalize the draft of the CoC, including a commitment to stop espionage activities, on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) this month in Myanmar.

Days after the November tapping revelation broke out, Yudhoyono issued the so-called "six-step road map" he required before bilateral relations could be normalized.

"Foreign Minister [Marty] has reported to the President that the process was about to be finalized," Faizasyah noted.

Yudhoyono was enraged again when a recent WikiLeaks report suggested he had been implicated in an Australian graft case in 1999 involving the printing of Indonesian banknotes. His eagerness to leave a strong legacy in relations with Australia was a top priority for the President, who was widely regarded as Indonesia's most friendly leader for Australia.

"Drafting [of the code] is progressing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene told the Post on Monday. Michael refused to disclose details of the draft.

Michael, however, also said that as of Monday, no firm date had been set for the meeting, but indicated that Marty and Bishop could meet on the sidelines of the 47th AMM in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Aug. 5 to 10.

Marty previously indicated that the CoC would essentially regulate the future direction of relations between the two countries.

"The code of conduct will certainly protect Indonesia's interests. The point is no more spying by one government on the other," the minister said after a meeting between Yudhoyono and Abbott in Batam, Riau Islands, in June.

The Batam meeting was considered an important step toward restoring diplomatic relations. Both Yudhoyono and Abbott, after the meeting, expressed a commitment to rebuilding trust and resolving problems that had disrupted the two countries' relations.

Beside the spying issue, relations had also been strained by Australia's unilateral policy to push back boats carrying asylum seekers into Indonesian waters, even after the two countries' cooperation on tackling people smuggling had been halted.

"After the ethical codes have been approved, I would like the codes to be signed by both heads of state," Yudhoyono said.

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