Australian PM “deeply” regrets embarrassment of the Indonesian spying scandal
CANBERRA – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott still insisted during question time of the Parliament on Wednesday that he’s not going to “overreact” to claims about Australia’s involvement in spying activities in Indonesia, but he confirmed that he “deeply and sincerely” regrets the embarrassment and hurt that the scandal has caused the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
On Tuesday Abbott told federal Parliament that Australia should not have to apologize or explain intelligence operations and the ” steps we take to protect our country”.
Indonesian President Yudhoyono refused to accept Abbott’s statement on Tuesday, and according to the local media, Indonesia is demanding an explanation and an official response from Abbott in relation to allegations Australian spies monitored the phone activity of the Indonesian president, his wife and some of his closest confidants in 2009.
“I deeply and sincerely regret the embarrassment that media reports have caused to President Yudhoyono, who is a very good friend of Australia, perhaps one of the very best friends that Australia has anywhere in the world,” he said during the question time.
“And I do understand how personally hurtful these allegations have been, these reports, have been, for him and his family,” he said. “I do note that there have been allegations and even admissions in the past on this subject. People didn’t overreact then and I certainly don’t propose to overreact now.”
“My intention notwithstanding with difficulties of these days is to do everything I reasonably can to help to build and strengthen the relationship with Indonesia which is so important for both our countries,” he added.
According to local media on Wednesday, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Jakarta has already “adjusted” cooperation with Canberra, and the level of the downgrade in relations will depend on Australia’s stance over revelations of spying on Indonesia.
“Downgrading the level of the relationship between Indonesia and Australia has been done,” Natalegawa said. “We have already adjusted various forms of cooperation.”
“We are turning off the tap by degrees,” he said. “It is being measured according to (Australia’s) response and stance.”