4 Feb 2003

Indonesia retracts threat to cut diplomatic ties with Vanuatu over Papua issue

6:19 pm on 4 February 2003

Indonesia has retracted a threat to cut diplomatic ties with Vanuatu in reaction to the establishment of a Papua representative office in Port Vila.

Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirayuda, says Vanuatu never officially said that it would allow Papuan separatists to open an office in Port Vila.

This comes after Indonesia's acting ambassador to Australia, Imron Cotan, said he was instructed by Jakarta to warn Vanuatu that ties would be severed if a Papuan embassy was established.

The minister said he was shocked at reports indicating that it wants to sever ties when it is still trying to used diplomatic channels to deal with the problem.

Meanwhile, the Free Papua Movement's representative in Vanuatu, Andy Ayamiseba, says the threats made by Mr Cotan are childish and a misintepretation of events.

"We requested to open a representative office to co-ordinate all the voices of various organisations who are fighting for the freedom of our country.The diplomat has acted extremely childishly to interpret the events and he should know there are no intentions at all of Vanuatu to establish an embassy of another country which is not independent yet."

Andy Ayamiseba.

Indonesia's foreign minister says Jakarta is currently arranging a visit for the Vanuatu prime minister, Edward Natapei.

He is also urging Vanuatu to abide by a communique from the Pacific Island Forum to recognise Indonesia's sovereignty over Papua.