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Yudhoyono boasts of diplomatic feats, despite Asean's failure

Publication Date : 18-07-2012


Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa left the country for the Philippine capital of Manila yesterday to begin a mission to lobby his Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) counterparts to find peaceful resolution to the South China Sea dispute that has caused a rift within the regional grouping.

Natalegawa is also slated to tour some Asean cities, including Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He will wrap up the tour on Thursday.

Foreign ministers of those countries were involved in a heated discussion in last week's Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Phnom Penh on how the summit should deal with the sensitive and prolonged territorial dispute. As a result, the summit ended without a joint statement, a first in Asean's 45-year history.

"Our aim is to create more intensive communications and seek a mutual position among Asean member states on the South China Sea issue. I hope my counterparts will be eager to convey all their views," Natalegawa said.

Natalegawa said he had also spoken on the phone with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Ferreros del Rosario on Monday and told him of the plan.

He said that the dialogue would be the key to maintaining stability in the region.

"The absence of mutual views could be dangerous, in the sense that Asean could be mistakenly seen as disunited and will be weakened," Natalegawa said.

He said that although Indonesia was no longer Asean chair, it wanted to present itself as a responsible member of the group.

On Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono instructed Natalegawa to tour some Asean countries to help settle differences.

Speaking in an impromptu press briefing, Yudhoyono said that he, as the leader of one of Asean's founding member nations, was disappointed and concerned about the failure of the Phnom Penh summit.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene, however, insisted that the President was not expressing his disappointment over Indonesia's failure to utilise its central role in Asean to help settle differences.

"I have read thoroughly the transcript of President Yudhoyono's statement at the press conference yesterday and my understanding is that the President never mentioned anything about his disappointment with Indonesia's failure," Tene said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post yesterday.

As Natalegawa travelled the Asean countries, Yudhoyono spoke of the success achieved by Indonesia in helping resolve domestic and international conflicts in a forum in Jakarta yesterday, attended by an international audience.

Among those who sat on the front row were Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister who was ousted in 2006 and is now living in exile; Jose Ramos-Horta, the former Timor Leste president; and Anwar Ibrahim, a Malaysian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister.

"In the 1990s, we assisted the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the southern Philippines, and Indonesia was the first country to be able to engage all the claimants in the South China Sea and all Asean states in an informal track-two process. More recently, we are playing a role in facilitating talks on the Thai-Cambodia border disputes, and we actively supported the democratic transformation in Myanmar, and we continue to do so," Yudhoyono said.

He also said that finding solutions to the conflicts was not always easy.

"Every conflict has its own personality. Different conflicts require different solutions. We found a good solution to the conflict in Aceh, and to the communal conflict in Ambon [Maluku] and Poso [Central Sulawesi]. However, these formulas cannot be entirely applied in Papua, which needs a different type of solution," the President said.

Yudhoyono was speaking at an event held to officially launch the international relations journal Strategic Review, which was run by former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda and was first published in August 2011.


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