Australia Apologizes for Breaching Indonesian Waters
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Australia apologized to Indonesia on Friday for naval breaches of Indonesian territory as part of Canberra's controversial policy of stopping boats carrying would-be asylum seekers from entering its waters.
Acknowledgement of the breaches will likely further strain ties that had already hit their lowest point since the 1990s after recent allegations Australia had spied on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other senior Indonesian officials.
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he had been told earlier this week about the "inadvertent breaches" on multiple days and immediately informed the Indonesian navy.
He said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was unable to reach her Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, who is in Myanmar for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to discuss the breaches and that a formal apology would be issued by Australia's embassy in Jakarta on Friday.
Indonesia downgraded its relations with Australia in November as a result of the spying allegations, suspending intelligence and military cooperation, including over asylum seekers.
A protracted crisis between the often uneasy neighbors could have serious repercussions. Indonesia is a major importer of Australian agricultural products such as wheat and live cattle. Australia is Indonesia's 10th-largest export market, Reuters reported.
Morrison's office did not reply to queries about whether the formal apology had been issued, but said Bishop had sent a letter to Natalegawa. Officials in Jakarta had no immediate comment, but a Defence Ministry press conference was scheduled for the afternoon.
Morrison said on Friday Australia "deeply regrets" the breaches of territorial sovereignty but at the same time maintained Australia's right to protect its own borders.