May 21, 2006

Australia to include Papua in Indonesian treaty

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is prepared to recognize
Indonesian rule over troubled Papua province in a security
treaty being planned by the two nations, Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer said on Sunday.

Relations between the neighbours have been severely
strained by Canberra's decision in March to grant 42 Papuans
asylum after they arrived by boat. Jakarta recalled its
ambassador in protest.

Leaders of Australia and Indonesia, facing their most
serious disruption in relations since Australia led a U.N.
force to end bloodshed in East Timor after its 1999
independence, plan to meet soon to discuss the dispute.

Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television that
both sides were working on a new security agreement that would
recognize each nation's territorial integrity.

"We've always said in the drafts we've provided, there
should be a mutual recognition of each other's territorial
integrity. And that, of course, would include a recognition of
Papua's integration into Indonesia," Downer said.

"We would be very happy with a provision where Australia
formally recognises Indonesia's territorial integrity."

The Papua issue is highly sensitive in Indonesia, an island
archipelago which has for decades fought secessionist

Papuan independence activists have campaigned for more than
30 years to split from Indonesia, while a low-level rebellion
has also simmered. Human rights groups accuse Jakarta of
widespread abuses there, and the 42 Papuans who sought asylum
said they feared becoming victims of genocide. Jakarta denies
such charges.

Australia's decision to grant refugee status to the Papuans
led to Jakarta accusing Canberra of supporting Papua's
independence movement.

Talks between foreign ministers from both nations last week
eased tensions, with Downer again publicly stressing Australia
recognised Indonesian rule over Papua.

The last security deal between Australia and Indonesia was
ripped up when Australia led the U.N.-backed force into East

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said on
Saturday the new security pact was expected to guarantee
Australia will not interfere in Indonesian affairs.

He said a draft being worked on included a clause
expressing Australia's commitment to Indonesian territorial

Wirajuda said Indonesia's ambassador should return before
Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesian President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meet.

He declined to say when and where the talks would be held.