Indonesia lukewarm on Australia asylum centre plan

JAKARTA, July 15, 2010 (AFP) – Indonesia gave a lukewarm response Thursday to Australia’s plans for a processing centre for asylum-seekers in East Timor, saying it was only a part of a regional solution to people-smuggling. The comments by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa came after he agreed to meet his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith, who was trying to garner regional support for the controversial centre.

Natalegawa was non-committal on the proposal, saying merely that a processing centre could be a “potential component” of a regional approach to the problem.

“We are not simply focusing on what we call the regional processing centre but we are having a broader thought process there in terms of a regional framework,” he said.

“We are actually precisely trying to develop a regional framework, a regional approach in dealing with the whole issue of people smuggling and trafficking,” Natalegawa said, adding that further talks were needed.

New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a return to harsh offshore detention policies, with immigration a key issue ahead of elections expected to be called in the coming days.

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