THE dates have been set for Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s forthcoming visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea next month – his first visit to the two countries after being re-elected for a second term last year.
Presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal confirmed the visits last Thursday in Jakarta, saying Yudhoyono would be accompanied by first lady Ani Yudhoyono and some cabinet ministers.
He would depart Jakarta on March 8 to Canberra, before leaving for Sydney and then Papua New Guinea on March 11.
The entourage would return home on March 12.
Dino said that during his stay in Canberra, Yudhoyono would have a meeting with Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and discuss a range of bilateral, regional and international issues.
“Indonesia and Australia have been experiencing intensive convergence in term of their national interests, which now also cover climate change and terrorism issues, and their participation in the global economic reform as mutual members of the G20,” Dino said.
“President Yudhoyono has close working and personal ties with Mr Rudd.
“As we know, Mr Rudd came to Jakarta when president Yudhoyono was inaugurated for his second term last year,” he said.
Besides meeting with Rudd, Yudhoyono will also pay a courtesy call on Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce and Australian opposition leader Tony Abbot.
The president was also scheduled to address members of the Australian parliament in a “rare-opportunity” speech in Canberra before heading to Sydney for a business meeting.
He said that the bilateral relationship between the two countries had improved since the signing of the strategic partnership declaration by Yudhoyono and former prime minister John Howard in 2005.
Dino said upon arrival in Port Moresby on March 11, Yudhoyono would meet with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.
“They will discuss various aspects in cooperation, especially on how to improve the economic and trade relationship.”