JAKARTA: Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia on Monday in a furious response to reports that Australian spy agencies tried to listen to the phone calls of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as well as his wife and ministers.
Jakarta also said that all cooperation with Canberra would be reviewed after secret documents leaked by United States (US) intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden named the president and nine of his inner circle as targets of the surveillance.
The escalating row came with ties between the strategic allies already strained over previous spying allegations and ways to deal with boatpeople heading for Australia via Indonesia.
“This is an unfriendly, unbecoming act between strategic partners,” Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters as he announced the ambassador would be recalled for consultations.
“This isn’t a smart thing to do,” he said, adding that it “hasn’t been a good day in the relationship between Indonesia and Australia.”
The documents, obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and The Guardian newspaper, showed that Australia’s electronic intelligence agency tracked Yudhoyono’s activity on his mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009, when Labor’s Kevin Rudd was prime minister.
Weeks before, twin blasts at luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital—the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton—had killed seven people, including three Australians, as well as two suicide bombers.
The directorate reportedly intercepted at least one call.
A list of targets also included Yudhoyono’s wife Ani, Vice President Boediono—who was in Australia last week, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the foreign affairs spokesman, the security minister and the information minister, the reports said.
Another name on the list, former minister for state-owned enterprises Sofyan Djalil, told Agence France-Presse: “We are not happy.”
But he added: “Diplomatic relations always have their ups and downs. This has caused anger in the short-term, but in the long-term we are still neighbors and I think we will overcome this.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment on the latest claims when pressed in parliament, but said Indonesia was an important partner.
“I will never say or do anything that might damage the strong relationship and the close cooperation that we have with Indonesia, which is all in all our most important relationship,” he said.
But the escalating row over spying has strained the relationship between Canberra and Jakarta—who have traditionally cooperated in many areas, particularly on the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia.
Following Monday’s new allegations, Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for legal, political and security affairs, said Jakarta planned to review cooperation in all areas with Canberra.
The latest release of Snowden documents comes just weeks after reports claimed Canberra’s overseas diplomatic posts, including in Jakarta, were involved in a vast US-led surveillance network.
These reports sparked anger from Natalegawa and prompted Jakarta to summon the Australian ambassador to Indonesia.
This was followed by claims that Australia and the United States mounted a joint surveillance operation on Indonesia during 2007 UN climate talks in Bali.
In an interview with the ABC on Sunday, before the latest revelations, Vice President Boediono played down suggestions of a rift with Australia and shrugged off the disputes as normal neighborly problems.
“It’s normal for next-door neighbors to have problems,” he said, but admitted to public concern in Indonesia over the espionage allegations.