The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned his successor against moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after meeting with the Indonesian president on Monday.
Turnbull met Joko Widodo as part of an Australian delegation attending a global conference. After their conversation Turnbull said Jokowi had expressed “serious concern” about the proposal to shift Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
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“There is no question, were that move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia,” he said. “This is after all the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.”
Morrison floated the idea of shifting the embassy in the dying days of the Wentworth byelection campaign. More than 12% of voters in the electorate are Jewish.
The former prime minister’s appearance at the Our Ocean conference in Bali was not without controversy, but Turnbull’s close relationship with Jokowi, whom he referred to as his “good friend”, was seen as useful in repairing relations with Australia’s northern neighbour.
The pair met for 40 minutes and discussed the embassy issue as well as an upcoming bilateral trade deal between Australian and Indonesia, which the government feared may have been under threat.
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Turnbull said Jokowi had “expressed to me, as he has done to prime minister Morrison, the very serious concern held in Indonesia about the prospect of the Australian embassy in Israel being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem”.
He also said he was confident that the Indonesia Australia comprehensive economic partnership agreement – which has taken eight years of negotiation – would be signed within weeks.
“I have no reason to believe it won’t,” he said. “Of course, it then has to be ratified through the Indonesian parliamentary system in the normal way.”