Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia in a furious response to reports that Australian spy agencies tried to listen to the phone calls of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as well as his wife and ministers.
Jakarta, which said it was “devastated,” also vowed to review all cooperation with Canberra after secret documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden said members of the president’s inner circle were spied on.
“This is an unfriendly, unbecoming act between strategic partners,” Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters as he announced the ambassador would be recalled for consultations on Monday.
“This isn’t a smart thing to do,” he said, adding that it “hasn’t been a good day in the relationship between Indonesia and Australia.”
Asked for how long the ambassador, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, would be recalled, Natalegawa said: “My advice to the ambassador is to not bring only a cabin bag.”
The documents, obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Guardian newspaper, showed that Australia’s electronic intelligence agency tracked Yudhoyono’s activity on his mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009, when Labor’s Kevin Rudd was prime minister.
Weeks before, twin blasts at luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital — the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton — had killed seven people, including three Australians, as well as two suicide bombers. The directorate reportedly intercepted at least one call.
The list of 10 tracking targets also included Yudhoyono’s wife Ani, Vice President Boediono — who was in Australia last week, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, the foreign affairs spokesman, the security minister and the information minister, the reports said.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment on the latest claims when pressed in parliament, but said Indonesia was an important partner.
“I will never say or do anything that might damage the strong relationship and the close cooperation that we have with Indonesia, which is all in all our most important relationship,” he said.
Fresh spying allegations have further strained relations between Canberra and Jakarta, which were already under pressure due to Abbott’s policy of turning asylum boats heading for Australia back to Indonesia.
Following Monday’s new allegations, Natalegawa said all cooperation between Jakarta and Canberra would be reviewed, including on the issue of boatpeople.
A senior diplomat was also summoned from the Australian embassy in Jakarta, since the ambassador himself was out of town, to hear Indonesian officials’ complaints.