Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr will meet today with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, after vowing over the weekend that his country was cognizant of human rights issues in Papua.
Carr arrived in Indonesia on Friday and has since visited several projects funded by the Australian government around Yogyakarta, including a village hit hard by Mount Merapi’s eruption in 2010. Speaking to the media on Saturday, Carr reiterated Australia’s long-held recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty in Papua.
“But we quietly work with the Indonesians to see that there, as elsewhere, reasonable standards of human rights protections are maintained,” said Carr, who is on his first visit to Indonesia in the capacity as foreign minister.
When asked if he supported calls for foreign journalists, who are effectively banned from visiting Papua, to be allowed to travel to the province, he said: “More transparency would help and not hurt the Indonesian case.”
Indonesia has been criticized for failing to solve bloody conflicts and a series of deadly shootings in the eastern province.
As well as Papua, the foreign ministers will discuss how Jakarta can help stop the flow of asylum seekers to Australia, and how both countries can work together to root out people smuggling.
“Yes, the asylum seekers [issue] seems to be high on the agenda,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry official P.L.E. Priatna confirmed on Sunday.
Australian officials and civil society groups have complained that Indonesia is not doing enough to combat syndicates smuggling people to the country.
On Saturday, Carr said he wanted to “levitate” the dialogue between Australia and Indonesia to a higher level, beyond “transactional” matters of people smuggling and drugs cases.
Australia is the largest provider of foreign aid to Indonesia, and increased its contribution again in this year’s budget.