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Australian PM refuses to apologize to Indonesia amid surveillance row

November 19, 2013, 11:39 UTC+3
"We use all our resources including information to help our friends and allies, not to harm them," Tony Abbott said
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Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott


SYDNEY, November 19. /ITAR-TASS /. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to apologize to Jakarta in connection with the scandal caused by wiretapping of phone conversations of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and members of his official family by Australian intelligence agencies.

“Australia should not be expected to apologize for the steps we take to protect our country now or in the past,” Abbott stated in his speech in Parliament on Tuesday. “Importantly in Australia’s case, we use all our resources including information to help our friends and allies, not to harm them.”

Head of Australia’s Cabinet also said that he had a deep respect for Indonesia and called Yudhoyono “one of the very best friends that we have anywhere in the world”. “That's why, I sincerely regret any embarrassment recent media reports have caused him,” Abbott added. He noted that now it was important for everyone — for Indonesia not less than for Australia — that common sense took over emotions and that both countries became closer, not farther from each other.

The ‘embarrassment’ mentioned by the Australian Prime Minister was a report of ABC TV outlet that said on Monday with reference to documents handed by ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden that in August 2009 Australian secret services within 15 days were wiretapping or registering mobile conversations of Indonesia’s President. According to these documents, Australian intelligence was actively developing a long-term strategy of mobile phone conversations of Indonesia’s President, the TV channel reported. It also said that other wiretapping targets for Australia’s Defense Signals Directorate were high-ranking officials from the president’s entourage, including his wife Ani Yudhoyono, Vice-President Budiyono, ex-vice-president Yusuf Kalla, Foreign Affairs Ministry official, as well as ministers of defense and information.

ABC’s report caused outbreak and outrage in Indonesia. Indonesian President’s official representative Teuku Faizasyah demanded from Canberra immediate explanations, and then Jakarta withdrew its ambassador from Australia. Indonesian President ordered the national security authority to find out on whom of the officials are currently spying the Australians, and take relevant measures.

“I also regret the statement of Australian Prime Minister that belittled this tapping matter on Indonesia, without any remorse,” Yudhoyono wrote in his Twitter. “Indonesia also demands Australia for an official response, one that can be understood by the public, on the tapping on Indonesia.” The Indonesian President also recalled that Australia conducts surveillance activities against his country and several other states in coordination with the US. He said that Indonesia demanded “clarification from the US & Australia”.

As stated by Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, his country intends to reevaluate all fields of cooperation with Australia. The minister also made it clear that the stay at home of Jakarta’s ambassador withdrawn from Canberra may be prolonged. “I advised him not to limit his luggage with carry-on,” Natalegawa said.

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