PM Tony Abbott to Meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono This Week in Batam Island During 9-Hour Stopover
By Vittorio Hernandez | June 3, 2014 8:33 AM EST
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will finally meet this week during the PM's 9-hour stopover at Batam Island in Indonesia. It would be the first face-to-face encounter after the spying row in late 2013.
Admission by Australia that it wiretapped the mobile phones of Mr Yudhoyono, his wife and several Indonesian ministers caused a major rift in diplomatic relations between the two neighbours. As a result, Indonesia withdrew support for Australia's asylum boat policy and joint military exercises.
Indonesia also recalled its ambassador to Canberra in November, but redeployed the envoy in May, indicating that the icy relations has started to thaw, which could have been the signal for the PM to meet the president.
In May, Mr Yudhoyono invited Mr Abbott to an international conference in Bali, but the Australian PM was in the midst of battling negative public opinion on the proposed 2014-15 federal budget that he begged off. Speculations are that he was avoiding a potential embarrassing situation because of an asylum seeker board that was turned around and sent back to Indonesia by Australian authorities.
He continues to attempt to convince Australians the budget would be good for the nation, while battling popularity ratings that continue to drop drastically.
The bilateral meeting is slated on Wednesday while Mr Abbott is on a 10-day trip to the west for trade and investment, including marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France and travels to the U.S. and Canada.
A spokesman for Mr Abbott said, "Further to their very cordial conversation last month, the prime minister will spend time with President Yudhoyono and continue the progress that has been made to resolve current issues and to strengthen the bilateral relationship."
However, in a twist as if the "favour" of wiretapping was returned, ABC reports that an Indonesian recorded the conversation between the two leaders because Mr Yudhoyono allowed media to stay in the same room while he was talking to Mr Abbott.
The Indonesian government confirmed the transcript of the conversation is accurate and allowing the journalists to remain in the same room was a mistake.
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