PM welcomes Indonesia-proposed meeting of 'trusted envoys'

AUSTRALIA'S icy relations with Indonesia appear to be thawing, despite a minor gaffe from a senior Liberal frontbencher on spying allegations on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott said today he had welcomed a proposal from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a meeting of "trusted envoys".

The meeting, which is understood to have formed part of correspondence between the two leaders, would be seen as a crucial part of rebuilding relations after the diplomatic spat of the past fortnight.

Mr Abbott said he would "reflect" on the approach over the next few days, before officially responding, but that an important part of Australia's values was "doing the right thing by Indonesia".

To that end, the Prime Minister said he wanted to organise a security round table meeting "where we are open with each other".

"I want Australia to be Indonesia's trusted partner, just as I want Indonesia to be Australia's trusted partner," he said.

But while Mr Abbott has still not confirmed the alleged tapping of President Yudhoyono's phone, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb was forced to clarify his comments on the issue.

He said on the ABC on Wednesday that "it was unfortunate that this taping that took place several years ago has been made public".

His surprising comment came only days after Mr Abbott refused to confirm or deny the existence of the alleged phone tapping operations.

Mr Robb later put out a statement saying his comments warranted "immediate clarification", that he was commenting in a general sense "to the matters that have been broadly reported in the media".

"I am not privy to any specific details of intelligence matters. I do not intend to comment further on intelligence matters, consistent with the longstanding position of governments of both persuasions," the statement said.

Despite comments from Indonesia's Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan on Tuesday that he was considering halting imports of Australian live cattle, Mr Abbott said he thought it was unlikely such a ban would result.


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