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Indonesia

US apologises for denying top Indonesian general entry, but Jakarta still wants explanation

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told American ambassador’s office there is ‘a sense of urgency’ to know why US customs would have barred General Gatot Nurmantyo and his wife

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 12:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 10:29pm

Indonesia on Monday said it had made “urgent” requests for an explanation why the United States barred its military chief from travelling to the US, as anger simmered in Jakarta over the diplomatic incident.

Armed forces commander General Gatot Nurmantyo was stopped on Saturday from boarding an Emirates flight to the US, despite having a visa and an official invitation to a conference from his counterpart, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Joseph Dunford Jnr.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said she had accepted an official apology from the deputy US ambassador in Jakarta, but still was still waiting for a detailed explanation.

“We conveyed that we still await clarification, an explanation why this happened,” Marsudi told reporters after meeting the US envoy.

“There is a sense of urgency to this that we have conveyed to them,” she said, adding that US officials were “trying to coordinate with relevant authorities in the US to find out what really happened”.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis apologised for the incident to his Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu on the sidelines of an Asean meeting in the Philippines.

“I can confirm that he did a pull-aside with the Indonesian minister and expressed regret and apologised for the inconvenience,” said Captain Jeff Davis, a spokesman for Mattis.

In a statement, the US embassy in Jakarta said, “This issue has been resolved. There is no restriction on General Gatot’s travel and we look forward to welcoming [him] to the United States.”

However, it was not immediately clear whether Nurmantyo, who has made official visits to the US before, would attend the conference as scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Some Indonesians reacted indignantly to the incident, putting up banners around the capital calling for the US ambassador to be expelled and for Americans to be “sent home”.

Former Indonesian ambassador to the US Dino Patti Djalal called for a stronger government reaction.

“The government should not be asking for a clarification, but rather conveying a protest to the US side,” he said on Twitter.

Nurmantyo has frequently courted controversy in Indonesia over what analysts perceive to be his political ambitions. He has been accused of whipping up nationalist sentiment by promoting the notion that Indonesia is besieged by “proxy wars” waged by foreign states looking to undermine the country.

This month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the armed forces should stay out of politics.