Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Aussie mulls embassy move



Aussie mulls embassy move

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Scott Morrison (left) speaks to Indonesian President Joko Widodo before a press conference at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java on August 31. SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP

Aussie mulls embassy move

FACING a domestic backlash and the threat of foreign trade retaliation, Australia’s Prime Minister on Tuesday appeared to slow-peddle a controversial decision to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem, saying he would first consult with allies.

As Scott Morrison stood accused of ditching 70 years of Australian foreign policy and reports emerged that Indonesia may suspend a planned bilateral trade deal, the prime minister told parliament no firm decision had been taken.

Hours after first floating the idea, Morrison said he would “canvass views” from regional leaders about the decision to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and move the embassy from Tel Aviv “before the government forms a particular view on this issue”.

Officials said the decision to move the Australian embassy has been under consideration for months. But Morrison’s announcement was timed to coincide with a make-or-break moment for his fledgling premiership.

On Saturday voters in a key Sydney electorate will go to the polls, with Morrison’s Liberal party candidate, a former ambassador to Israel, trailing in the final stretch.

Defeat for Morrison’s candidate – in a constituency with a sizeable Jewish population – would spell the end of his government’s parliamentary majority and a bleak future for his months-old stint at the top of Australia’s rough-and-tumble political heap.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Morrison’s initiative, the response from neighbouring Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim population – was less welcoming.

Australia would be “violating international law” and UN security council resolutions if it proceeded with the embassy move, said Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, who was in Jakarta on an official visit Tuesday.

“Australia is risking [its] trade and business relationship with the rest of the world and particularly the Muslim world,” he added.

“I hope that Australia would reconsider that decision before it takes such action for election purposes.”

‘Open-minded’

Australian state-backed broadcaster ABC reported a senior official in Jakarta saying a landmark trade deal between the two countries may now be put on ice.

Officials from Indonesia’s foreign and trade ministries said they were unaware of any plans to suspend talks on the agreement, but Morrison indicated he had discussed the issue with President Joko Widodo in a series of calls.

“We will continue to work closely and cooperatively with our allies and our partners all around the world on this issue,” Morrison told parliament.

Morrison earlier said he was “open-minded” to “sensible” proposals to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move his nation’s embassy to the holy city, a sharp break with the policy of successive Australian governments.

“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly it hasn’t been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison said.

“Scott Morrison is now so desperate to hang on to his job, he is prepared to say anything if he thinks it will win him a few more votes – even at the cost of Australia’s national interest,” said opposition Labor party foreign policy spokeswoman Penny Wong.

Turnbull’s government had explicitly distanced itself from the decision by Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, branding it “unhelpful” to the peace process.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the

  • 'Pandora Papers' expose leaders' offshore millions

    More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (