Australia, Indonesia Boost Anti-Terrorism, Security Cooperation

Source : Bloomberg.com

By Ed Johnson

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) — Australia and Indonesia agreed to strengthen security ties and boost their fight against international terrorism when foreign ministers Stephen Smith and Hassan Wirajuda met in the western city of Perth today.

They renewed a counterterrorism agreement for a further three years and discussed bringing into force the so-called Lombok Treaty signed in 2006, Smith said in an e-mailed statement. The treaty was ratified by the Indonesian Parliament in November.

The treaty encourages “greater collaboration in areas such as defense, law enforcement, counterterrorism, maritime security and emergency preparedness,” Smith said. “To take this cooperation forward, officials will develop an action plan on jointly agreed priorities.”

Australia and Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, have worked together on investigations into terrorist attacks blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah group that have killed more than 240 people since 2002. Bombings on the island of Bali in that year killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

The group, which is linked to al-Qaeda and wants to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state, is also blamed for a Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta in 2003 that killed 12 people, a bomb explosion outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004 that killed at least nine, and a second attack in Bali in 2005, when three suicide bombers killed themselves and 20 other people.

Indonesian Sovereignty

The Lombok Treaty was signed by Smith’s predecessor, Alexander Downer, and Wirajuda in November 2006. The accord included a formal acknowledgement by Australia of Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua.

The island has been a source of tension between the two countries, with the government in Jakarta accusing Australia of supporting a separatist movement there.

Papuan rebels have been fighting for a separate state since the Dutch colonial power ceded control to Indonesia in 1963. Papua is on the western half of New Guinea island, which it shares with Papua New Guinea.

Relations soured in March 2006 when Australia granted temporary protection visas to more than 40 Papuan asylum-seekers who said Indonesian authorities are committing genocide in the country’s easternmost province. The move saw Indonesia temporarily withdraw its ambassador to Canberra.

Australia and Indonesia signed a security accord in 1995. The government in Jakarta rescinded it in 1999 when Australia agreed to lead an international force to restore order in East Timor. East Timorese had voted for independence from Indonesia, triggering a campaign of violence by government-backed militia that left hundreds of civilians dead.

Trade between the two countries was valued at A$10.4 billion ($9.28 billion) in 2006-07, making Indonesia Australia’s 13th largest trading partner, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net .

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