Australia Set To Recognize Papua Treaty

Australia set to recognise Papua treaty

May 21, 2006 – 5:14PM

Australia is set to formally recognise Indonesia's control over Papua in a security treaty, leading to more claims of Canberra's subservience in the damaging visas row.

Indonesia wants the treaty, which has been condemned by the Australian Greens and Papuan independence supporters, to include a clause in which the Australian government rejects Papuan claims for independence.

With Australia anxious to help Jakarta battle Islamic terrorism, the new treaty will lay out a framework for a new era of cooperation between the Australian Defence Force and the powerful Indonesian military.

Indonesia's demands follow the diplomatic row over Australia's granting of visas to 42 Papua asylum seekers, which led to the recall of Indonesia's Canberra-based ambassador.

To help restore relations, the federal government has introduced new laws requiring all asylum seekers arriving by boat be processed in offshore detention centres while their claims were assessed.

The planned security treaty is expected to guarantee Australia will not interfere in Indonesian affairs, a move aimed at reassuring Indonesia that the Australian government will not back independence movements in Papua.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the government had no issue with including the clause in the proposed treaty that had been agreed upon in a closed-door meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda in Singapore.

“We have been working with the Indonesians on putting together some sort of a framework agreement on security cooperation,” he told ABC television.

“And a component of that, we've always said in the drafts we've provided, 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, and we would be very happy with a provision where Australia formally recognises Indonesia's territorial integrity.”

Dr Wirajuda urged Australia to include a Papua clause in the treaty, and said differences over the visas dispute were narrowing between Jakarta and Canberra.

He said Indonesia's ambassador to Australia should return before an expected meeting between Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meet, though he declined to say when and where the talks would be held.

“The sooner the better,” Dr Wirajuda said.

Mr Downer said he expected the leaders to meet somewhere in Indonesia in the next few weeks.

The Australian Greens and the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) are outraged over the proposed treaty, saying it shows contempt for Papua's claims for independence.

Greens Senator Bob Brown said Mr Downer's subservient agreement to recognise Jakarta's control over Papua was astonishing and undemocratic.

“The government has sent Australian troops to the other side of the world to defend freedom and democracy but is turning its back on our Papuan neighbours,” Senator Brown said.

AWPA spokesman Joe Collins said Papuans had a right to choose their own future.

“The United Nations states that `all peoples have the right to self-determination' and Australia appears to deny this right to the West Papuan people,” Mr Collins said.

“While West Papuans are continuing to be killed, Australia should not be negotiating a security agreement which will restore military relations with Indonesia in any form.”