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Australia-Indonesia ties back in 'very good shape': foreign minister

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 10:42
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Australia's Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop co-hosts an Australian ministerial meeting at the 48th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 5, 2015.

[SYDNEY] Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Thursday said ties with Indonesia were in "very good shape" after plunging this year when Jakarta executed two Australians, hailing her relationship with "text buddy" counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Canberra took the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador after Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan faced the firing squad for drugs offences in April, with tensions already fraught over Australia's military-led efforts to turn back asylum-seeker boats.

In the aftermath, Australia also froze ministerial visits and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo refused to take calls from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

But Ms Bishop told ABC radio there had been no lasting damage.

"There are tensions in the relationship from time to time. We are two very different countries but we are neighbours and we both realise that we need to get along, we need to align our interests and we're doing that exceedingly well," she said.

Lines of communication were again open at all levels, including between Jokowi and Mr Abbott.

"This has all been resolved so the relationship is in very good shape," Ms Bishop said after a "warm and constructive" breakfast meeting with Marsudi in Sydney on Thursday, focused on trade and investment but also counter-terrorism.

"The personal contact between Australian government ministers and our counterparts is very important and that's why Retno Marsudi and I keep in constant contact," said Bishop.

"We're text buddies, much to the chagrin of our diplomats. We keep in contact on a very regular basis by phone, by text." Australia has long had a fractious relationship with its northern neighbour.

The execution of the ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" heroin trafficking gang came as ties were only just recovering after sinking to their lowest point in years in late 2013.

This followed reports that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his inner circle.

Ms Bishop is due to travel to Indonesia in mid-October to hand over the chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association to Jakarta.

AFP

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