Jakarta and Dili in the dark on talk of asylum centre progress

JAKARTA and Dili have received no fresh details of the Gillard government's proposed East Timor asylum-seeker processing centre.

The news comes despite Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's promise to "progress" the plan within the constraints of caretaker government.

Nor did Mr Smith discuss asylum-seekers with his counterparts from East Timor and Indonesia, Zacarias Albano da Costa and Marty Natalegawa, during the ASEAN foreign ministers meetings last week, as he had undertaken to do.

Mr Smith cancelled his appearance at the ASEAN meetings in Hanoi at short notice. Meeting Mr Natalegawa on July 15, a week after Julia Gillard launched the proposal without consulting Indonesia, Mr Smith said: "We need to discuss it throughout the region, and we need to do that sooner rather than later."

Meeting in Dili yesterday, Mr Natalegawa and Mr da Costa called for more information from Canberra and regional discussion.

"We need to have more conversation, to be better informed, to be better appreciated," Mr Natalegawa said.

Mr da Costa added: "So far we haven't received any concrete proposal from Australia.

"Our position remains the same -- that Australia, Timor-Leste and other countries in the region have to consider this issue through an appropriate forum."

Mr Da Costa and Mr Natalegawa are understood to have discussed the Australian proposal at the first Indonesia-East Timor joint ministerial meeting since 2005, although it was not on their formal agenda.

A spokesman for Mr Natalegawa in Jakarta later said that no fresh information had been forthcoming from Canberra since his July 15 meeting in Jakarta with Mr Smith and none was expected until after the election.

Last Monday Mr Smith said Australia would continue "progressing its offshore processing centre proposal, and within the constraints of the caretaker provision, that will continue in the course of the campaign".

At that time, four days before the ASEAN meetings, Mr Smith said he would hold discussions with Mr da Costa and Mr Natalegawa in Hanoi.


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