The row over alleged Australian spying in Indonesia deepened on Tuesday, with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono taking to social media to criticise Canberra for its refusal to apologise.
In a number of Twitter posts, the President accused Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott of belittling the scandal and not showing any remorse, actions he called “hurtful”.
“I also deplore the statement of the Australian Prime Minister for treating lightly the wiretapping of Indonesia without admitting guilt,” he tweeted. Adding that, “U.S. & Australian actions have certainly damaged the strategic partnerships with Indonesia, as fellow democracies.”
Indonesia recalled its ambassador from Australia on Monday and has announced that it will review all bilateral cooperation following the revelations.
Mr. Abbott on Tuesday told the Australian Parliament that while he regretted any embarrassment the reports of spying may have caused Mr. Yudhoyono, Australia “should not be expected to apologize” for what he called “steps taken to protect our country”.
The Australian leader has not confirmed or denied the reports released by whistleblower Edward Snowden that reveal Australia was tapping Mr. Yudhoyono’s phone for a 15 day period in 2009, but says Australia gathers such information to help its friends and allies, and not to harm them.
The documents, published by broadcaster ABC, and The Guardian newspaper, also disclosed other Indonesian spying targets, including the phones of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and key government figures like Vice-President Boediono. The latest of Mr. Snowden’s disclosures comes just weeks after previous reports claimed Canberra’s embassies abroad, including in Jakarta, were involved in a vast U.S.-led surveillance network.
Australia and Indonesia are neighbours who have long had a troubled relationship, but Mr. Abbott came to power declaring the relationship with Jakarta to be one of the key priorities of his government. Analysts describe the current spat as the lowest point in the volatile bilateral relationship since 1999, when Australia had led a U.N. military force into the former Indonesian province of East Timor, following a conflict-wracked independence ballot.
In recent years, however, the relationship has improved, despite the vexed issue asylum seekers who use Indonesia as a base to make it to Australia. Jakarta was Prime Minister Mr. Abbott’s first stop abroad after being elected in September this year.