JAKARTA: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday suspended cooperation with Australia over the sensitive issue of people smuggling, denouncing Canberra’s “Cold War” behavior following allegations its spies tapped his phone.
Yudhoyono announced that cooperation with its southern neighbor in a number of areas would be temporarily halted, including military exercises and intelligence exchanges.
But the most important for the Australians will be in the key area of people smuggling, as Canberra seeks to stem a flow of thousands of asylum seekers arriving by boat from Indonesia.
Yudhoyono said that “coordinated military cooperation” between Jakarta and Canberra, which includes joint work on people smuggling, would be halted “until everything is clear”.
“For me personally, and for Indonesia, the wiretapping by Australia . . . is difficult to comprehend,” an angry Yudhoyono told reporters. “This is not the Cold War era.”
Cooperation with Australia on exchanging intelligence and sharing information would also be suspended as well as joint military exercises, the President said.
He was speaking after a meeting at the presidential palace in Jakarta with Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia who was recalled earlier this week over the scandal.
It was the latest angry outburst from Indonesia over reports, based on documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden, that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of the President, his wife and ministers.