Abbott strikes conciliatory note over Indonesia executions
26 February 2015, 11:53
Sydney - Australian Prime Minister Tony
Abbott struck a conciliatory tone on Thursday after speaking with Indonesian
President Joko Widodo about the looming execution of two convicted Australian
Abbott said he spoke with his
"friend" Widodo on Wednesday evening, adding that the Indonesian
leader "absolutely understands our position... and I think he is carefully
considering Indonesia's position".
Widodo has denied clemency to 11 convicts
on death row, including Australian, French, and Brazilian nationals, ratcheting
up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas for mercy.
Abbott had previously angered Jakarta by
linking his pleas for clemency for the pair to Australia's aid to Indonesia
after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Jakarta responded by warning that threats
were not part of diplomatic language.
"It was a positive sign that the
conversation took place," Abbott told reporters in Canberra. "It's a
sign of the depth of the friendship between Australia and Indonesia."
He declined to comment on the conversation
"I don't want to raise hope that might
turn out to be dashed," Abbott said.
"I want to ensure that as far as is
humanly possible, I am speaking out for Australians and for Australian values,
but I also have to respect and defend Australia's friendships."
Executions to go ahead
Indonesian government officials have
repeatedly said the planned executions, to be carried out by firing squads,
would not be delayed or cancelled despite diplomatic pressure. No date has been
set for the executions.
"We understand the efforts made by
Australia to represent their nationals. That's the duty of all
governments," said Armanatha Nasir, spokesperson for Indonesia's foreign
Widodo, who also took calls from Brazil,
France, and the Netherlands this week, has warned those nations against
interfering in Indonesia's sovereign affairs.
Brazil had a citizen executed last month
and another is among the next group on death row, along with a French national,
the Australians and seven others. A Dutch citizen was executed last month.
"We are keeping communications open
with Brazil and we anticipate only good things in our relations with other
countries," Nasir said.
Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug
trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap.
On Tuesday, a court in Jakarta threw out an
appeal by the two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31,
against Widodo's rejection of their request for presidential clemency.
Lawyers for the members of the so-called
Bali Nine group of Australians, convicted in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot
to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia, have said they plan to appeal against that