The Straits Times
Published on Sep 05, 2012

Australia, Indonesia mull search and rescue deal


SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian planes could be allowed into Indonesian airspace during search and rescue missions at sea if a proposed cooperation deal is agreed, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said on Wednesday.

Mr Smith, who is visiting Jakarta for talks with his Indonesian counterpart, said Indonesia might also let Australian planes refuel on its land as part of closer cooperation aimed at saving asylum-seekers after a spate of drownings.

"The one area... where Defence Minister Purnomo and I have made a contribution to the search and rescue effort is to agree that we should explore whether we can have a rapid entry by Australian search and rescue planes into sovereign territorial air space of Indonesia," Mr Smith told ABC radio.

"And also to see whether search and rescue planes can land in Indonesia rather than waste time by a return journey." Mr Smith would not put a time frame on finalising such an agreement, saying it could take months, but added that both sides were interested.