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Australian and Indonesian ministers look to strengthen regional ties

Australian and Indonesian foreign and defence ministers have gathered in Bali for the sixth 2+2 meeting, which followed the 12th Bali Democracy Forum.

Australian and Indonesian foreign and defence ministers have gathered in Bali for the sixth 2+2 meeting, which followed the 12th Bali Democracy Forum.

During the meeting, the ministers highlighted a number of significant areas of focus for the two nations, which is guided by the principles of the 2006 Lombok Treaty.

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Indo-Pacific stability and prosperity

In a release, the ministers highlighted their focus for the future of the Indo-Pacific and their joint goal of a open, inclusive and prosperous region:

  • The ministers exchanged views on the shifts underway in south-east Asia and the Indo-Pacific, noting that Australia and Indonesia’s strategic outlooks are converging, as both seek to navigate a contested regional environment. The ministers also noted that they welcome the July 2019 adoption of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific by ASEAN leaders;
  • The ministers acknowledged the centrality of ASEAN in underpinning regional security and stability, with an emphasis on their commitment to engage with ASEAN-led regional architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus). The ministers also emphasised the important role this architecture plays in setting expectations of behaviour, supporting respect for international law, reinforcing a rules-based regional order and promoting habits of cooperation on shared challenges;
  • The ministers acknowledged Australia and Indonesia's history of collaboration in ASEAN forums, with Australia's co-sponsorship of the Indonesia-led ASEAN Regional Forum Statement on Preventing and Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism noted in particular. They also noted the value of co-operation in other regional and multilateral forums, committing to further strengthen other regional partnerships such as India and Timor-Leste;
  • The importance of infrastructure and connectivity in the Indo-Pacific was recognised by the ministers, with Australia affirming its intention to support implementation of the connectivity agenda in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, including through continued support for the implementation of the Masterplan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and the ministers said they look forward to the proposed organising of the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Infrastructure and Connectivity Forum: Supporting ASEAN Economic Transformation Towards High Value Added Economy, which will be hosted by Indonesia in 2020; and
  • The "deep, broad and constructive engagement" with Pacific island countries and Pacific regional institutions was also recognised by the ministers, with commitment made to further exploring options for complementary development co-operation in the region.

South China Sea tug of war of particular importance

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In the joint release, the ministers expressed "serious concerns about the developments in the South China Sea", reaffirming the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

"The ministers underscored the importance of disputes being resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," the release said.

"They also expressed their concern at the continued militarisation of disputed features and encouraged all parties to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may raise tensions.

"They noted negotiations between ASEAN and China towards a Code of Conduct and the importance of any Code being effective, substantive, and consistent with international law, in particular UNCLOS; that it not prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of states under international law; and that it support existing, inclusive regional architecture."

Securing Australia and the region's shared interests

Among other points of note following the meeting between the ministers was the commitment to countering counter-terrorism in the region, as well as the importance of the regular bilateral exercises and training.

Peacekeeping, cyber security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response were other areas of note for the ministerial meeting. 

Australian and Indonesian ministers look to strengthen regional ties
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