Daily Telegraph: Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has downplayed the significance of the failure of Iran to turn up to people smuggling talks in Jakarta. The meeting, established under the so-called Bali Process, was aimed at deepening cooperation, Dr Natalegawa said.
The Daily Telegraph – Australia
By Karlis Salna, AAP Southeast Asia Correspondent
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has downplayed the significance of the failure of Iran to turn up to people smuggling talks in Jakarta.
The meeting, established under the so-called Bali Process, was aimed at deepening cooperation, Dr Natalegawa said.
“What is important is not whether someone is sitting in the conference room or not, it’s more the outcome and the actual implementation,” Dr Natalegawa told reporters after the talks.
“Indonesia has had very good cooperation with many countries of origin including Iran and I have confidence we will be able to put into effect some of these commitments,” he said.
The Indonesian foreign minister rejected suggestions that little in the way of outcomes would come from the meeting, which concluded after just three hours with a three-page declaration.
“I can assure you it is a far better situation today thanks to the kind of commitment the countries that have met today have made in identifying and following up areas where we can be working together,” Dr Natalegawa told reporters.
He said plans to hold combined search and rescue exercises involving origin, transit and destination countries was an example of a practical measure that the meeting had delivered.
“Now the key issue is one of implementation or delivering on the kind of commitments we have made.”
Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke, who attended the meeting along with Foreign Minister Bob Carr, also claimed the talks had delivered progress in terms of a coordinated response to dealing with the increased flow of asylum seekers around the region.
A key achievement was a commitment from the countries involved to address the abuse of visa on arrival schemes which have made it easy for asylum seekers to gain entry to transit countries such as Indonesia, Mr Burke said.
The talks came on the same day that Indonesia closed the door on visas on arrival for Iranians. This is seen as a major step towards addressing the influx of asylum seekers transiting through Indonesia to Australia.
Figures obtained by AAP show there has been a steady increase in the number of visas on arrival granted to Iranians in the lead-up to the August 20 cut-off date.
In January, a total of 1,172 visas were granted to Iranians arriving in Indonesia compared to 2,257 in July. The figures for August are not yet available.
A spokesman for the Indonesian Immigration Department confirmed that Iranians had been arriving in greater numbers.
“Yes, there’s been a rise these last few months,” he told AAP.
Mr Burke said there had also been a strong commitment made to forcing returns of asylum seekers found not to be bona fide refugees.
There are occasions when people simply have to be returned to their country of origin if they do not have a valid claim, Mr Burke said.
The talks, an initiative announced by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last month, would boost the framework “that is required to deal with what is a regional problem”, he said.
“If anybody wanted to doubt that people smuggling is a regional problem, they could not have doubted it any longer once they heard the voices around that table today.”