Indonesia’s foreign ministry has called in Australia’s ambassador and issued a “strong demand” that he immediately explain the news that the Australian embassy in Jakarta was used as a post to spy on Indonesia.
If news that Australia conducts clandestine surveillance activities through its embassy in Jakarta is true, such activities are highly unacceptable
In a statement issued late on Thursday, the foreign ministry “strongly demands clarification and an explanation” of the revelations published by Fairfax Media.
But Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa will not take the meeting— he is in Perth attending a conference with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop.
A departmental spokesman said ambassador Greg Moriarty would meet a “senior official” instead.
Calling in an ambassador is a strong diplomatic step, and the revelations and swift response threaten to increase tensions in the relationship between the two countries at a time when Prime Minister Tony Abbott is seeking to hose down ill-feeling in Indonesia from his electioneering over asylum seekers.
Just 12 hours before the story was published, Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison was in Jakarta asking for Indonesia’s help to combat people smugglers.
The statement said Mr Moriarty, had been requested to come to the Foreign Affairs office on Friday to “provide an official explanation from the Australian Government”.
“The actions that were carried out, as they were reported, absolutely do not reflect the spirit of friendship that has been well maintained between neighbouring and friendly countries, and are a serious breach of security that is unacceptable to the Indonesian Government,” the statement says.
In the first version, the foreign ministry said: “If the story is confirmed, Indonesia will lodge a strong protest against the action.”
However, a “corrected” version was later issued without that sentence.
The response came after the Indonesian president’s senior foreign affairs adviser also protested strongly, saying the use of an embassy for such purposes was “unacceptable”, a “serious security breach,” and carried the potential to “damage trust and confidence”.
Adviser Teuku Faizasyah said that, “illegal ways of collecting information, including through intercepting phone conversations, is against the very principle of good bilateral relations.
“If news that Australia conducts clandestine surveillance activities through its embassy in Jakarta is true, such activities are highly unacceptable. It is a serious security breach and is inconsistent with diplomatic norms and ethics … Spying on friends is unacceptable. Mutual trust is the very foundation of any good bilateral relations.”