16 May 2006

Indonesia declares issue of 42 Papuans solved

12:34 pm on 16 May 2006

Indonesia has praised Australia's new stance against Papuan asylum seekers, indicating a thaw in the diplomatic row over Canberra's decision in March to grant protection visas to 42 Papuans.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, said Australia had responded positively to the crisis by introducing a new "Pacific Solution" and that the issue was "solved".

He made the comments ahead of a meeting with his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, in Singapore last night.

In a marked change of tone, Mr Wirajuda said Indonesia had dropped demands for the return of the 42 Papuans and that Australia had shown "goodwill" in its attempt to resolve the stand-off.

Following the March decision, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had recalled his ambassador from Canberra, claiming Australia was undermining Indonesia's sovereignty.

However, Mr Wirajuda said Jakarta is now satisfied that Australia's new policy persuades would-be refugees from Papua not to seek asylum in Australia.

He said this was demonstrated by Australia returning three Papuans found on a Torres Strait island last to Papua New Guinea, the country where they departed from.