JAKARTA: Indonesia announced on Tuesday that it is reviewing cooperation with Canberra over “hurtful” claims that its president’s phone was tapped, as Australia’s leader issued a qualified response that stopped well short of an apology.
In a series of angry tweets, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said ties with Canberra had been damaged and “deplored” what he described as a lack of remorse on the part of the Australian prime minister.
His outrage over reports that his phone and those of his wife and ministers were targeted by Australian spies came a day after Indonesia recalled its ambassador from Canberra in protest.
Indonesia is “reviewing the bilateral cooperation because of Australia’s hurtful action,” Yudhoyono said in a tweet, referring to the accounts of spying in documents leaked by United States intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden to Australian media.
Indonesia and Australia are close strategic and trading partners and have traditionally worked together in many areas, including on anti-terrorism initiatives and on the sensitive issue of asylum-seekers.
“I also deplore the Australian Prime Minister’s statement that wiretapping in Indonesia is considered a small thing, without any feeling of remorse,” Yudhoyono said.
“The acts by the US and Australia are very damaging to their strategic partnerships with Indonesia, a fellow democratic country,” he added, referring to allegations the US has also been spying from its embassy in Jakarta.
Following the president’s angry tweets, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian parliament that Yudhoyono was “one of the very best friends that we have anywhere in the world.”
“That’s why I sincerely regret any embarrassment recent media reports have caused him.”
But he added: “Australia should not be expected to apologize for the steps we take to protect our country now or in the past, any more than other governments should be expected to apologize for the similar steps that they have taken.”
Indonesia said on Monday it was “flabbergasted” by the allegations that the president and nine of his inner circle had their phones targeted.
The documents, leaked to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and The Guardian newspaper, show 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.
At least one phone call was reportedly intercepted.