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Australian army chief to meet Indonesian military leaders after spat

Reuters

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Australian army chief Angus Campbell will meet Indonesian military leaders in Jakarta on Wednesday, after defense cooperation was suspended last month over "insulting" teaching material found at an Australian base.

Campbell is due to meet Indonesian military (TNI) chief, Gatot Nurmantyo and army chief of staff Mulyono, TNI spokesman Wuryanto said.

Indonesia's military chief declared the rupture in military ties after an Indonesian officer found "offensive" teaching material while on a language training course in Australia late last year.

Nurmantyo said that the material "discredited the TNI, the nation of Indonesia and even the ideology of Indonesia", referring to material concerning East Timor and "Papua needing to be independent", as well as mocking the country's founding principles, known as Pancasila.

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Both governments moved quickly to try to cool tensions and Indonesia's chief security minister, Wiranto, later said only cooperation related to the military's Australia-based language training program had been suspended.

Australian media said Campbell would discuss the findings of an investigation by the defense department into the issue after Indonesia had sought assurances over the training material.

TNI spokesman Wuryanto declined to comment on the agenda for Wednesday's talks. A spokesman for Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed the visit but also declined to comment further on the talks.

The countries have extensive military cooperation, which ranges from counter-terrorism cooperation to border protection.

But they have had a rocky military relationship in recent years. Australia stopped joint training exercises with Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) after accusations of abuses by the unit in East Timor in 1999 as the territory prepared for independence.

Ties resumed when counter-terrorism cooperation became imperative after the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Indonesia most recently suspended military ties in 2013 over revelations that Australian spies had tapped the mobile telephone of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Harry Pearl in SYDNEY; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

 
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