Australia PM Abbott in Indonesia as asylum boat toll hits 39

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Australia\’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted Monday that his country has "total respect" for Indonesia\’s sovereignty after his tough refugee policies, including towing asylum-seekers\’ boats back to Indonesia, sparked anger. 
Abbott began his visit in Jakarta by laying a wreath at a national cemetery honoring Indonesia\’s war heroes, hours before his scheduled meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The meeting between the two leaders comes several days after at least 36 asylum seekers were killed when their boat sank in Indonesian waters.
Following talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday, Abbott played down rising diplomatic tensions over refugees, a key issue in the recent Australian election that saw him sweep to power.
"The fact that there is a very strong and high-level delegation of business leaders travelling with me to Indonesia
as part of this visit testifies to the desire of the Australian people to build a much stronger…economic relationship based on greater trade and investment," Abbot said in a joint statement with President Yudhoyono on Monday.
Ties with Yudhoyono\’s administration have been largely cordial for nearly a decade, but Abbott\’s conservative administration got off to a rocky start over asylum seekers who make their way to Australia via Indonesia.
Yudhoyono too put aside any suggestion of hostility over the issue which has become an emotional political debate in
Australia.
"Australia and Indonesia are both victims with regard to the issue of people smuggling and boat people. For instance, there are many people from the Middle East and other nations who come here and become a social and economic burden for Indonesia … The solution to overcome this problem is effective cooperation between Indonesia and Australia," Yudhoyono said.
The new Australian leader won national elections earlier this month on a "stop the boats" pledge to end the constant stream of asylum seekers sailing from Indonesia to Australia.
Under the new policy, the Australian navy has been ordered to prevent the boats from reaching shore, and turn them back around whenever possible. The policy has upset Jakarta, warning that it violates Indonesia\’s sovereignty.

Australia\’s government has been under domestic pressure to stop the influx of asylum seekers from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Hundreds of people have drowned in recent years trying to make the dangerous journey to Australian territory.
Source: Agencies

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