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Aussie FM expresses 'regrets' in Indonesia spy row

Thursday - 12/5/2013, 5:36am  ET

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, is greeted by his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa prior to their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Dec. 5 2013. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

NINIEK KARMINI
Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop tried to mend fences with Indonesia on Thursday, saying her government regrets the hurt caused to its president and people over reports that Australian spies tapped his phone.

Bishop's visit to Indonesia's capital is the first by a senior Australian official since a row erupted last month over media reports of the alleged spying, based on documents provided by U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Indonesia was outraged and downgraded its relations with Australia over the alleged bugging of phones belonging to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and members of his inner circle in 2009.

Indonesia suspended cooperation between the militaries and law enforcement agencies of the two countries, including work on people smuggling. It also recalled its ambassador to Australia, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said it's unclear when the envoy might be sent back.

"Obviously, we regret events that led to this situation," Bishop said. "We regret the hurt caused to President Yudhoyono and to the Indonesian people."

She said the Australian government "will not undertake any act or use our assets and resources, including intelligence assets, in any way to harm Indonesia."

The two countries agreed to establish a hotline to discuss any future issues to help avoid misunderstandings that could harm relations.

Natalegawa said progress in restoring relations will occur in steps, "but the ball is always on the Australian side because all will depend on the core problem: how to rebuild mutual trust."

Yudhoyono has said he wants the countries to establish a code of conduct to help relations move forward.

Bishop also plans to visit China and the Philippines.


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