JAKARTA — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Monday on Indonesia to pursue dialogue and ensure autonomy for restive Papua but made it clear that the United States did not support independence.
Clinton, who rattled nerves in Indonesia last year by voicing concern over human rights, praised the government even as she urged more efforts to resolve the long-running conflict.
Papua — a vast, mineral-rich province that shares an island with Papua New Guinea — has a population ethnically different from most Indonesians. Jakarta annexed the former Dutch colony in 1969 and has since faced a low-level insurgency.
“We believe strongly that dialogue between Papuan representatives and the Indonesian government would help address concerns the Papuans have and assist in resolving conflicts peacefully,” Clinton said in Jakarta.
“Of course we deplore violence of any sort in Papua and when it does occur there should be full and transparent investigations under the rule of law,” she told a joint news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
Clinton urged implementation of Indonesia’s 2001 declaration of autonomy for the troubled region. Local activists charge that the autonomy has never been carried out and that their rights have not improved.
Clinton stressed: “We support the territorial integrity of Indonesia and that includes Papua and West Papua provinces.”
“We think that there has been an enormous amount of good work done by the Indonesian government and we’re going to continue to work with them and raise issues as that becomes necessary,” she said.
Human rights groups have accused Indonesian authorities of arbitrary arrests and attacks on civilians in Papua, which is shut off to foreign media.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr similarly said Sunday that Canberra rejected Papua independence despite concerns over human rights, warning that separatist activism by Australians could “completely rupture” relations between the two countries.
US President Barack Obama’s administration has been eager to build ties with Indonesia due to its vast size, embrace of democracy and moderate brand of Islam, but advocacy groups have warned not to ignore human rights.
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