Indonesian president lashes out at Abbott’s reply to alleged snooping

AP

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Tuesday he deplored as remorseless Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s statement about alleged wiretapping of his phone and said cooperation agreements between the near-neighbors will be reviewed.

In Canberra, Abbott endorsed intelligence gathering in principle without confirming or denying the reported spying under a previous government in 2009.

In a series of tweets confirmed by his office, Yudhoyono reacted strongly. One, in an Indonesian language, said: “I also deplore the statement of Australian prime minister who underestimates the wiretapping of Indonesia, without sense of guilt.”

A later English tweet used the word “regret” instead of “deplore” and said the statement “belittled this tapping matter on Indonesia, without any remorse.”

Analysts describe the furor as the lowest point in a perennially volatile bilateral relationship since 1999 when Australia led a U.N. military force into the former Indonesian province of East Timor following a bloody independence ballot. On that occasion, Indonesia ripped up a 4-year-old security treaty with Australia. A new treaty has since been signed.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. and The Guardian reported that they had documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden showing that the top-secret Australian Signals Directorate also targeted the phones of Indonesian first lady Kristiani Herawati and eight other government ministers and officials.

Abbott told parliament on Tuesday he regretted any embarrassment that the spying reports had caused Yudhoyono but ruled out demands for an apology and explanation.