Indonesia, Nauru Form Diplomatic Ties

Indonesia has established diplomatic ties with the South Pacific island nation of Nauru, in what the Indonesian government said is an effort to expand opportunities and strengthen links between the two countries.

Observers, meanwhile, praised the move as a bold measure to suppress support for the separation of Papua from Indonesia at a time when the Pacific Islands Forum, of which Nauru is a member, appears to be growing in international stature.

Desra Percaya, Indonesia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said he expected the opening of diplomatic relations would lead to more opportunities and deepen cooperation in various sectors, especially in the fields of climate change, disaster risk management and South-South cooperation.

Nauru is the 183rd nation, out of 193 UN members states, with which Indonesia has established diplomatic relations. Indonesia established diplomatic ties with Botswana, Tuvalu and Haiti earlier this year.

Desra and Nauru’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Marlene Moses, marked the occasion with the signing of a joint communique in New York last Friday.

Moses expressed hope that Indonesia would continue to help the small Pacific nation voice its needs in global environmental forums.

“One thing that the Pacific people really remember and appreciate was when Indonesia led a discussion on a climate change resolution in a UN forum, which results in an agreement in line with the interests of Pacific countries, especially in the context of global warming, which threatens the existence of these countries,” Moses said in a statement released on the weekend.

However, one analyst argued that of bigger interest to Indonesia was finding friends among Pacific island states, in hopes of preventing discussion in the Pacific Islands Forum about the possible independence of Papua.

“We need to get as much support from Pacific island countries so that the issue of Papuan independence does not get bigger,” said Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations expert at Indonesian Defense University in Jakarta.

Several Pacific island countries, especially Vanuatu, have expressed support for the independence of Papua from Indonesia, and have frequently made those views known in the forum.

While Nauru, one of the smallest countries in the world, has been neutral on the Papuan question, experts have said the country could swing in support of independence if the majority decided to do so.

“So it’s good that we have established formal diplomatic ties with Nauru, as we can actively persuade the country to be on our side,” Bantarto said.

Several observers have criticized Indonesia for a lack of effort in approaching Pacific island countries for support on the Papua issue, saying Jakarta appeared to underestimate the role of the island nations on the international stage.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum in September signaled the bloc’s growing importance as the United States turns its attention to Asia and the Pacific in an attempt to counter China’s regional rise.

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