Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia following Guardian Australia’s revelations that Australian spy agencies attempted to listen to the private phone calls of the Indonesian president and targeted the phones of other senior figures in Jakarta, including his wife.
The Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, confirmed on Monday that he and the president had contacted the ambassador in Canberra and told him to return to Jakarta for “consultations”. He added that Indonesia was reviewing all information-sharing agreements between the two nations, a damning move given the new Australian government’s pledge to combat people-smuggling in the region.
Natalegawa said any tapping of Indonesian politicians’ personal phones “violates every single decent and legal instrument I can think of – national in Indonesia, national in Australia, international as well”.
He added: “It is nothing less than an unfriendly act which is already having a very serious impact on bilateral relations.”
Natalegawa said summoning the ambassador was “not considered a light step” but was the “minimum” that could be done to “consolidate the situation”.
“The ball is very much in Australia’s court,” he said, calling for an official, public explanation from Canberra.
He expressed frustration at the response he had received from the Australian capital, adding he would be speaking with the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, later on Monday. Natalegawa dismissed any suggestion that phone surveillance was “common practice between countries”, saying: “I have news for you: we don’t do it, we certainly should not be doing it among friends.”
Natalegawa said he would be examining whether the phone tapping revelations were in violation of the Lombok treaty signed by the two nations in 2006, which aimed to enhance bilateral security co-operation.
The foreign minister, known for his reserved demeanour, spoke in an unusually forthright manner. He said he would be “quite flabbergasted” if tapping the private phone calls of the president had relevance to Australia’s security interests.
“I need quite desperately an explanation how a private conversation involving the president of the Republic of Indonesia, involving the first lady of the Republic of Indonesia, how they can even have a hint, even a hint of relevance impacting on the security of Australia,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, the deputy Australian ambassador to Indonesia, David Engel, was called to the foreign ministry for talks. After a 20-minute meeting, he described talks as “very good”.