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Julie Bishop begins Indonesia visit

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has begun her visit to Indonesia with a colourful visit to a Jakarta primary school.

Ms Bishop was greeted by a small troupe of fan-swirling dancing school girls on Monday, adorned in red and gold at the school in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

It marks the beginning of a three-day visit in which she will meet her Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, formally open Australia’s new embassy and co-chair the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process.

The two-day conference brings together more than 40 countries and agencies to discuss ways to combat people smuggling, trafficking and other transnational crime.

The ministerial conference is usually held every two years but did not happen in 2015 due to tensions between co-chairs Indonesia and Australia over Australia’s boat turn-back policy and the executions of Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Ms Bishop’s visit comes amid continuing criticism of the government’s turn-back policy, with Indonesia saying it only shifts the burden to other countries and has created a bottleneck in the Southeast Asian country.

“This is not solving the problem,” international security and disarmament director for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry Andy Rachmianto has said.

“It could disturb bilateral relationships. If this kind of policy continues it would trigger violation of international law.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Asia Pacific spokeswoman Vivian Tan also criticised Australia’s approach to boat turn-backs in the region.

“The boats have not stopped. They have only been prevented from going to Australia. People are still feeling conflict and persecution but they now have fewer options in the region,” she told AAP.

Source: AAP