Indonesia's president: ties with Australia entering difficult phase

Indonesia's relations with Australia are in a difficult phase because of Canberra's decision to accept Papuan asylum seekers and tit-for-tat publications of cartoons showing both country's leaders as copulating dogs, the president said Monday.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said his country was reviewing its cooperation with Australia on stopping illegal migration following last month's move to grant visas to 42 Papuans who had claimed Indonesian troops were committing genocide in their homeland.

"The decision was incorrect, not realistic and unilateral. I believe there was a better option," Yudhoyono told reporters. "Ties between Indonesia and Australia are now entering a difficult phase that is full of challenges."

Tensions between the two countries deteriorated further after an Indonesian newspaper angry at the asylum decision published a cartoon showing Prime Minister John Howard as a wild dog copulating with his foreign minister.

On Saturday, an Australian newspaper ran a cartoon showing Yudhoyono as a dog mounting a Papuan.

Yudhoyono said the cartoon featuring him was "obscene and could cause people to get angry.

"A row over cartoons is not the solution, but is the problem," he said, calling for people to stay calm.

He also criticized the drawing of Howard, but said he understood the cartoonist's anger following the Papuan asylum decision, reports the AP.


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