Australia PM Abbott downplays Indonesia opposition to refugee plans
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott played down Indonesian opposition to his controversial refugee boat plans on Thursday, and pledged to never "do or propose" anything that would impinge its sovereignty.
Mr Abbott is due to travel to Jakarta next week ahead of the Apec summit for bilateral talks, which are likely to be dominated by his contentious military-led operation to turn asylum-seeker boats back to Indonesia, a key staging point for the thousands of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia every year by boat.
The plan, Operation Sovereign Borders, has rankled Indonesia, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa telling his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on the sidelines of the UN this week that Jakarta "cannot accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate sovereignty".
Mr Abbott, who has kept a low profile since being sworn into office last week, downplayed Dr Marty's concerns on Thursday. "I'm not sure that's the case," he said when it was put to him that Indonesia saw his policies as an affront to their sovereignty.