NB Minister Wiranto’s remarks have been translated from Indonesian
MINISTER WIRANTO: I have met with the Australian Foreign Minister and we have spoken about many issues, particularly how we can continue Australia and Indonesia’s close ties. We discussed issues concerning national security. We also talked about issues around counter-terrorism cooperation, which we have built since August in Bali, and talked about its continuation. We also discussed Indonesia’s stance towards the South China Sea. Well, the gist is there is common deep understanding between Indonesia and the Philippines in taking a stance towards various issues and a very strong invitation from Ms Foreign Minister to continue the already good cooperation in the future. That’s all. Thank you.
MINISTER BISHOP: Thank you Minister for welcoming me to Jakarta. We had a very constructive discussion about matters of mutual concern. Australia and Indonesia have a very close relationship, not only are we neighbours, but we also share common interest and face common challenges and opportunities in our region. We had a detailed discussion about the issue of returning foreign terrorist fighters, how we work together to counter terrorism as we have been doing for some time now and also how we counter violent extremism. We spoke about the challenges that will come from returning foreign terrorist fighters from Iraq and Syria. The more successful the Iraqi Government is in taking back territory from the terrorists, the more likely the risk that these terrorist fighters will seek to come home including to Indonesia and to Australia and it is utterly essential that Australia and Indonesia share information, share intelligence and work closely together to keep our respective citizens safe from terrorism. We also spoke about regional issues. The South China Sea, we have a very similar view to Indonesia, in terms of the need to deescalate tensions, to encourage the claimant states to work together to negotiate their differences. And we talked about some of the regional opportunities that Australia and Indonesia can work together to achieve and particularly, we sought to identify other areas where our countries can achieve better security and stability outcomes. We also spoke of the President’s upcoming visit to Australia, which we hope will be a great success as there is such a strong rapport between President Widodo and Prime Minister Turnbull and we want to build upon that very constructive relationship.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any information on how many foreign terrorist will return from Iraq and Syria to Australia and Indonesia?
MINISTER BISHOP: We know that there are about 110 Australians currently in Iraq and Syria fighting with or supporting the terrorist organisation ISIL. I believe that Indonesia has around 500 and if they survive the conflict in Iraq and Syria, we can anticipate that a number of them will seek to return home. Therefore, it will take an international effort to monitor and track their movements and that is why it is so essential that Australia and Indonesia share information so that we can ensure that we know where they are and what they are doing.
JOURNALIST: Minister what’s the biggest concern about the returnees, their skills in what they have learnt in their training there?
MINISTER BISHOP: From our experience with Afghanistan, when Australian foreign fighters went to Afghanistan they became hardened terrorists, and a number of them came back to Australia and carried out terrorist-related activities in Australia. A number of them were charged and convicted of terrorist activities and I believe that there are still about five in jail. When you extrapolate the numbers compared with Afghanistan, many more, probably four or five times more foreign terrorist fighters from Australia are in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, we can make certain assumptions; they have networks, they have connections, they have experience and skills that could be used against Australian citizens and we intend to do whatever we can, working in cooperation with partners like Indonesia, to keep our people safe from terrorist attacks.
JOURNALIST: Minister Wiranto what are you looking from Australia; I am talking about joint ventures. What can Australia do to help Indonesia monitor these returnees?
MINISTER WIRANTO: Yes, I think with already good cooperation, there is actually a lot of assistance Australia gives to Indonesia in the framework of helping in how we combat radicalism and terrorism. Evidence shows that when we beat Santoso, of course we did not deny Australian intelligence assistance in it to uncover further with quite sophisticated technology and I think we will continue such cooperation in the future. Not just the provision of assistance, but also a transfer of technology from Australia to Indonesia so that each country in the ASEAN region can independently and in good collaboration combat terrorism, which does not care about borders. They operate under a strong international network.
JOURNALIST: Mr Wiranto, so far how many jihadists have returned from Iraq and Syria to Indonesia?
MINISTER WIRANTO: Their number is about 500.
JOURNALIST: No, those who have returned?
MINISTER WIRANTO: The returnees are about 53. And we have made a “soft” approach on them. A humanitarian approach. We invite them to return to normal life. We delete the outcome of the brainwashing committed by terrorists in Syria from ISIS. And apparently some of them have returned to normal life as regular members of society. And for hard-line figures we give a special guarantee [sic]. OK, thank you. Enough.
MINISTER BISHOP: There is a very high level of trust between Australian law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies with their counterpart agencies in Indonesia. We are working as closely with Indonesia as with any other country in this area of counter-terrorism. We have a very deep shared interest in keeping our respective citizens safe from terrorist activity including terrorist attacks. So we are working to build capacity to share experiences, to share information and also to share the information that we receive from our partner countries elsewhere that might be of relevance to Indonesia. So there is a very high level of trust and very deep engagement between us. Of course, I am not going into operational details but we are working very closely together in the interest of the respective national security of both nations and of course our region.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] the US has made a decision on Hambali not to release him from Guantanamo Bay because he is still considered to still be a very real security risk. I was hoping for a comment from both of you on that decision.
MINISTER WIRANTO: We always… as an Islamic country, Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims in the world, therefore Indonesia has the tendency to become the source and target of terrorism. Therefore we always maintain vigilance against actions that attempt to penetrate the Muslim community in Indonesia with ill intent, with a “hidden agenda” that leans on terrorism. We have a body named the National Counter-Terrorism Agency which intensively monitors them, faces them and neutralises them. And this is of course a form of cooperation with Australia, which materialised from the Bali meeting in August. And now we continue it. That’s our commitment to Australia.
JOURNALIST: On the issue of Hambali, sir?
MINISTER WIRANTO: The same.
JOURNALIST: Hambali will not be set free, sir, from the decision [inaudible] he is detained for life there. What is your comment, sir?
MINISTER WIRANTO: Well, this is an issue of other country. But we must have a stance that we have a belief that terrorist, either abroad or at home – if he is yet to acknowledge his wrongdoing he should be under state observation, government observation. We release them when we believe that they are truly reformed and aware that terrorism is a bad act. Terrorism is an evil act. That’s what we do. Therefore in facing such a situation, Indonesia consistently shows no tolerance to unreformed terrorists. We re-embrace them when they have been reformed.
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