Canberra-IndonesiaandAustralia, whose bilateral relations have often been rocky, are now eyeing a security pact that will strengthen ties and allow for cooperation on counter-terrorism.
Thetwo countries hope to strike a dealby the end of March to start talks on the security deal, their foreign ministers said on March 18.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due to visitAustralialater this month and the security pact will be on the agenda of his talks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
"I think the two leaders ... could endorse the idea and then ask the two foreign ministers to work on the draft agreement," Reuters quoted Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda as sayingafter meeting his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer in Canberra.
In 1995,AustraliaandIndonesiasigned a security deal that committed the countries to ministerial consultations about security, increasing cooperation and consultations in the event of a threat to either country or to regional security.
Since then,tieshad often been less than cordial, especially afterAustralialed a United Nations-mandated intervention force intoEast Timorin 1999 to quell violence by pro-Indonesia militias after Timorese voted for independence fromJakarta.
However, an Indonesian minister said on March 21 that current bilateral relationshad never been better, thanks toCanberra’s A$1 billion-donation to rebuild tsunami-ravaged Aceh.
"I think we're at the peak of Australia-Indonesia relations after it hasbeen up and down," Associated Press quoted Indonesia’s Trade Minister Mari Pangestuas telling a luncheon in Melbourne. "And we've had a bit of a down period just in the last few years.”
Ms Pangestu said strong rapport between the two countries’ leaders andAustralia's financial support had helped to heal previous rifts.
* Australia, Indonesia hope for security pact (The Jakarta Post, March 19)
* Indonesia trade minister says relations with Australia at a 'peak' (The Jakarta Post, March 21)