Jakarta — Indonesia has moved to clarify reports Australian navy vessels are set to be given free rein in its waters, with a senior defence ministry spokesman saying the plans about enhanced maritime cooperation are still being formulated.
The clarification comes after the Australian government also rejected an ABC report that an agreement was set to be signed as early as next month which would allow the navy free access to Indonesian waters to carry out rescue operations.
Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare are expected to visit Jakarta next month for discussions on a range of issues, including maritime cooperation.
But Indonesian defence ministry spokesman Hartin Asrind said the agenda for the meeting was still being finalised.
He also moved to clarify reports that an agreement on enhanced maritime cooperation would mean Australian ships would be given free rein in Indonesian waters.
“At the moment, we’re still formulating the visit agenda. It’s still an ongoing process about what exactly to talk about because as for now, it’s still in internal talks processes,” Mr Asrind said.
“We’re now still coordinating internally within TNI (Indonesian Military), defence ministry and other stakeholders on this issue.”
The comments are in line with those of Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa last month that pointed to enhanced cooperation in search and rescue operations, and the possibility of coordinated patrols.
“Basically, (the meeting next month) is a defence to defence minister’s talk and other than that we may talk about SAR (search and rescue), especially SAR cooperation on water.”
Australian vessels are already able to enter Indonesian waters to carry out rescue operations, after being granted permission from Indonesian authorities, and have done so on numerous occasions in recent months.
A spokeswoman for Mr Clare also rejected reports that a deal had been done that would allow Australian navy vessels to operate in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone without seeking permission.
“This particular proposal has not been put formally to the government and has not been under consideration,” the spokeswoman said.
The ongoing discussions on maritime cooperation arose out of talks in Darwin last month between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Both leaders agreed to look at additional ways to strengthen search and rescue capabilities, “including possibly the provision of technology for Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency (BASARNAS)”, the spokeswoman said.