Indonesia has sought a code of conduct with Australia that includes guarantees about spying activities, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono insists an agreement must be signed before relations can fully normalise.
Dr Yudhoyono said he had also received commitments from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, contained in the letter delivered to the president on Saturday, including that “Australia would not do anything in the future” that would damage Indonesia.
“Nevertheless, there are still some things, in my opinion, a few things that need clarification by Australia,” said Mr Yudhoyono.
An adviser to Dr Yudhoyono earlier refused to confirm whether the letter contained an apology from Mr Abbott.
“The Australian prime minister has agreed with and supports my suggestion to rearrange bilateral co-operations including intelligence exchange by formulating clear, fair and obeyed protocols and and ethics code,” Dr Yudhoyono said, following a lengthy meeting with senior ministers in Jakarta on Tuesday evening.
More clarity needed
But while tensions appear to be thawing, Dr Yudhoyono has also insisted that he needs further clarification in terms of Australia’s response to allegations the phones of the president and his wife were tapped in 2009.
The resumption in bilateral ties, as well as military and police co-operation, would be conditional on agreement on the new “code of ethics and protocols” that will map out the future relationship, Dr Yudhoyono said.
Dr Yudhoyono said he would assign either Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa or a special envoy to handle negotiations with Australia on the code of conduct, but insisted it must be signed by himself and Mr Abbott at a formal and public ceremony.
“Nevertheless, there are still some things, in my opinion, a few things that need clarification by Australia,” he said.
The code of ethics must address the phone-tapping issue, Dr Yudhoyono said, adding that he would personally inspect the draft document to ensure it met Indonesia’s expectations in addressing the 2009 incidents.
“What I’m suggesting is that after the two countries, especially Indonesia, have trust again, and the protocols and ethics code are truly applied, then I think the bilateral co-operations which clearly has brought common benefit would be continued,” he said.
“I hope that … the position and response from Indonesia will also get a constructive response from the Australian prime minister and the government he leads.”
High level consultation on Abbott letter
Dr Yudhoyono had earlier met with some of his closest advisers and senior ministers to discuss a letter received from Mr Abbott, written in response to Indonesia’s demands for an explanation and apology over the spying row.
The meeting was attended by Vice President Boediono, co-ordinating minister for security and political affairs Djoko Suyanto (the man appointed to take charge of Indonesia’s people smuggling policy), and the head of the state intelligence agency, Marciano Norman.
Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, was also at the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Dr Yudhoyono told the group gathered at the presidential palace that future relations between Jakarta and Canberra must be built on “mutual trust” and steps would have to be taken to rebuild that.
Mr Abbott wrote to Dr Yudhoyono last Thursday after Indonesia suspended all military co-operation with Australia, as well as co-operation in combating people smuggling, intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism efforts.
While co-operation is expected to eventually be re-booted, Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan confirmed on Tuesday that Jakarta would accelerate efforts to source cattle from countries other than Australia in the wake of the spying scandal.
Mr Gita last week asked the Indonesian parliament to examine changing animal health rules to allow the import of live cattle from countries other than Australia, including those with foot and mouth disease such as Brazil.
Asked on Tuesday whether the fallout over the spying controversy had affected those plans, Mr Gita said: “I think you can attribute some of that or a lot of that to the unfortunate incident that took place.”
“There are other places that I think can help us with our food security aspirations. We are looking at those.”