JAKARTA Feb 17 Indonesia described reports that
Australia had listened in on government trade discussions with
lawyers as mind-boggling, saying that to contend they had
anything to do with security was going too far.
Often prickly relations have hit a new low since Australian
Prime Minister Tony Abbott took office last September, with
Jakarta furious at reports that Australia wiretapped the phones
of top Indonesian officials including the president and his
"To suggest that the future of shrimp exports by Indonesia
to the United States has an impact on Australian security is a
little too much and begs some serious questions as to what it's
all about," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said at
a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
"In our view, neighbours like Indonesia and Australia should
be looking out for each other, not turning against each other."
Natalegawa's comments follow media revelations at the
weekend that Australia notified the U.S. National Security
Agency that it was conducting surveillance of talks between the
Indonesian government and an unnamed U.S. law firm on bilateral
A top secret document obtained by former NSA contractor
Edward Snowden shows the firm was monitored while representing
the Indonesian government in trade disputes with the United
States, according to The New York Times.
Abbott said the government did not comment on operational
matters but that intelligence is not used for commercial
purposes, according to media.
Natalegawa said he was unsatisfied with the Australian
"I have come across statements that Australia collects
intelligence to save Australian lives, lives of other people, to
promote Australian values," Natalegawa added. "But I must say I
find it a bit mind-boggling, a bit difficult how I can reconcile
discussions about shrimps and the impact on Australian
Relations between the two neighbours have also been strained
over asylum-seekers who attempt to reach Australia via
Indonesia. Australia has started implementing a "turn back the
boats" policy, which Natalegawa has criticized as "unhelpful".
Indonesia suspended police and intelligence cooperation on
asylum-seekers with its neighbour late last year following the
earlier reports of wire-tapping of top officials.
Kerry, when asked about the U.S. response to the
surveillance issue, cited a series of reforms to U.S.
"We take this issue very seriously which is why President
Obama laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms. The
president said in his speech on this subject, the United States
does not collect intelligence to afford a competitive advantage
for U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors."
Kerry was speaking in the Indonesian capital during a trip
to Asia and the Middle East, including a stop in Beijing last
(Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Nick Macfie)