Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto says he wants to remain friends with Australia, but it needs to overcome its ‘phobia’ of his country.
Mr Subianto made the comments during the third presidential debate against Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.
Mr Subianto was asked by his opponent how he would handle bilateral relations with his country’s southern neighbour.
“I think the issue is that perhaps Australia has a suspicion or phobia towards us,” he said.
“Maybe we as a nation with a massive population, they may consider us to be emotional [and] we have carried out several military actions, so I think they perhaps consider us a threat.
“We still want to be their friends.”
Indonesia’s relationship with Australia sank to its lowest point for years in November after reports that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of the current President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his inner circle.
Jakarta called the actions “mind-boggling” and recalled its ambassador from Canberra, who only returned to Australia in May.
It also suspended cooperation in several areas, including over people smuggling – another sensitive topic with Jakarta unhappy over Australia’s military-led operation to stem the flow of asylum seekers, who mostly make the journey from Indonesia.
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott held talks with Mr Yudhoyono during a visit to Jakarta earlier this month, after which he said he was confident the issues between the countries were on their way to a resolution.
Mr Yudhoyono is unlikely to meet Mr Abbott again during his remaining time in office, with just four months left in his term.
Indonesians will vote on July 9 for the next president to replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose second five-year term ends in October.