Australian and Indonesian media were positive on Friday that tensions between the two countries could thaw under the Bali sun at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Asia-Pacific Regional Conference due to be held on the Indonesian island early next month.
The Jakarta Post reported that a conference organiser had confirmed Prime Minister Tony Abbott's attendence at the meeting, where he would have an opportunity for a sidelines talk with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Fairfax saw Australia's invitation to the conference as an 'olive branch' extended by SBY himself. It would be the first top-level meeting between the two countries since diplomatic ties were severed over the spying row last November.
The aim of the OGP is to facilitate cooperation between governments and civil society and promote 'open, accountable and responsive' governance.
However, the Australian newspaper's Freedom of Information editor, Sean Parnell, has reported that not only is Abbott unlikely to join the conference in Bali, he is also unlikely to want his government to join the partnership. According to Parnell's sources, Australia's commitment to the OGP is under review (a letter on the partnership's website dated May 2013, when Julia Gillard was prime minister, expressed the Australian Government's intentions to join the OGP), and any Australian presence at the Bali conference is likely to be by a mid-level observer from the Finance Ministry. An update on Saturday reported that this had been upgraded to a ministerial representative.
The code of conduct for Australia-Indonesia relations would first need to be finalised before a meeting could take place between Abbott and Yudhoyono. Foreign Ministers Julie Bishop and Marty Natalegawa are still negotiating such an agreement, requested by Indonesia in the wake of the spying scandal. The protracted freeze in diplomatic relations has centred on concerns over Australia's spying activities and its boat turn-back policy, both of which have raised issues over how 'open, accountable and responsive' the Australian Government really is, with its neighbours and with its own citizens.
It would be a welcome development for Abbott to meet with Yudhoyono in Bali next month and begin the process of rebuilding relations between the two countries. If the meeting doesn't take place, relations will remain as they are, meaning that Australia will have to wait to meet with Indonesia's new president later this year.
Photo courtesy of @TonyAbbottMHR.