Tensions thaw between Australia and Indonesia as Jokowi confirms Canberra visit
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Tensions thaw between Australia and Indonesia as Jokowi confirms Canberra visit

THE upcoming visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Australia will serve to improve the “already good relations” between the two countries, Indonesian Foreign Minister has said, in a sign that relations between the two nations is thawing.

“This is an important meeting given how Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours. The two countries have good and significant cooperation in the field of investment, education and trade,” Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi told Jakarta Post reporters at the State Palace on Monday.

According to Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Wiranto, the visit is expected to take place on February 26.

The confirmation of the presidential visit came after Australian Army chief Angus Campbell met with Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo after a furore earlier this year when material considered offensive by Indonesia was discovered at a Perth army base.

SEE ALSO: Australia: Army chief to meet with Indonesian military leaders following row

The insulting material allegedly disparaged the Indonesian National Armed Forces and Indonesia’s national ideology, Pancasila.

General Gatot said on Feb 8, “Pancasila is the national ideology of Indonesia as well as for all its people, which is why the Indonesian people are willing to die to defend the ideology. For our soldiers, it is very sensitive and painful (for it to be insulted).”

The controversy led to Indonesia suspending military cooperation with Australia back in January.

Lieutenant-General Campbell flew to Jakarta last week to brief Indonesian military leaders on the findings of an internal investigation into the allegedly offensive material and to issue an apology on behalf of Australia.

Both nations are eager to maintain friendly ties as the relationship has proven highly valuable in policing border control and counter terrorism measures in both countries.

SEE ALSO: Indonesia suspends military cooperation with Australia

Retno also stressed Indonesia’s desire to maintain Australia as a strong ally for reasons of tourism, stating earlier on Monday that Indonesia remained an important partner for Australia, as the number of inbound tourists exceeded 1 million, even though these were still concentrated in Bali.

“However, with the development of 10 [new] tourist destinations, we also want to encourage Australians to visit other parts of Indonesia,” she said after meeting Timor Leste Strategic Planning and Investment Minister Xanana Gusmao and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto at the security minister’s office.

In the meeting, Timor Leste and Indonesia discussed long disputed land border points and agreed to set up a senior official consultation (SOC) that will consist of “a small group that will deliberate the technical matters on both countries’ understandings before reaching an agreement to conclude a resolution to the land borders,” according to Wiranto, as reported by the Jakarta Post.

Discussions will begin on March 10 in Bali and the team will report the results of the meeting to both governments.

Negotiations have been ongoing since 2002 when Timor Leste formalised its independence from Indonesia following a UN supervised referendum held in 1999. Progress so far has been slow, with negotiations being mired by inefficiencies and plagued by a lack of progress.