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Indonesia and PNG agree to ‘soft’ border approach

Meet the neighbors: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono greet Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neil (second right) and his wife Lynda May Babao at the State Palace on Monday. PM O’Neil is on a state visit to Indonesia. JP/Jerry Adiguna
Meet the neighbors: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono greet Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neil (second right) and his wife Lynda May Babao at the State Palace on Monday. PM O’Neil is on a state visit to Indonesia. JP/Jerry Adiguna
Indonesia and its neighbor Papua New Guinea (PNG) agreed to use a “soft” approach in the border areas between the two nations often used by separatists to evade Indonesian security forces, leaders of the two countries stated on Monday.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill led a delegation of government officials and business leaders on a three-day visit to Jakarta on Monday, aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries.

“Soft border management will mean citizens of both countries will interact better economically and socially,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said during a joint press conference after the meeting. “We agreed to renew the border arrangement.”

Yudhoyono also thanked PNG for its consistency in supporting Indonesia’s sovereignty while O’Neill said both countries “continue to respect each other’s sovereignty”.

It was the second meeting between Yudhoyono and O’Neill after a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Bali Democracy Forum last year.

The two leaders signed 11 deals, including the agreement on border arrangements, as well as an extradition treaty and agreements on trade and education cooperation, at a bilateral meeting at the State Palace on Monday.

The approximately 760-kilometer land border between PNG and Indonesia’s Papua province is also host to many other issues, including poverty and illegal crossing by various tribes and people from Papua.

Critics have said poverty in border areas is a result of the implementation of a security approach during Indonesia’s New Order regime.

Yudhoyono, however, would not say whether or not the currently out-of-date Indonesia-PNG border crossing cards were also discussed in the meeting.

The Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border in Skouw-Wutung, just outside Jayapura, Papua, was reopened to border crossers on May 20 after being closed for around three weeks. 

PNG had banned Indonesians from entering PNG on the grounds that their border crossing cards had expired on March 18.

The cards were valid from March 18, 2003, based on an agreement between both governments on border arrangements signed on March 18, 2003.

Yudhoyono went on to say the extradition treaty was also important for Indonesia.

His statement comes in the wake of the case of Indonesian corruption fugitive Joko Tjandra, who 
fled to PNG where he was granted citizenship.

Attorney General Basrief Arief said on the sidelines of the event that the process of extradition would now be easier, including that for Joko. However, he did not disclose when Indonesia would ask PNG to repatriate Joko.

PNG and Indonesia signed a treaty of mutual respect, cooperation and friendship on Oct. 27 1986 to regulate relations and define rights and obligations in border areas. In the ensuing years, the countries have held regular meetings to discuss bilateral issues.

O’Neill told the press conference on Monday that the meeting had set a foundation for better cooperation between the two countries, particularly on border management and extradition.

He welcomed the decision to implement softer border management so that the people of PNG could engage better with Indonesians, saying that PNG “is ready to assist Indonesia in addressing the many challenges in those areas”.

Trade was also on the agenda of O’Neill’s trip to Indonesia as the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on petroleum and resource management.

“It is important for us to do business with Indonesian business people,” O’Neill said.

On May 21, Indonesia agreed to team up with Papua New Guinea to explore potential oil and gas reserves in border areas as the former shifts its oil and gas exploration focus to the eastern part of the archipelago.

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik said after a meeting with PNG Public Enterprises and State Investment Minister Ben Micah that “the border possesses a huge amount of unexplored oil and gas reserves, according to data obtained by our team”.

Micah said his country also hoped its national petroleum companies would form a joint venture with oil and gas firm PT Pertamina to jointly develop hydrocarbon reserves in the areas.
Source: Jarkata Post

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