Australian pPrime minister Tony Abbott has refused to offer an apology to Indonesia over reports Canberra hacked President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's phone, sparking an angered reaction by Jakarta.
The Indonesian government recalled its ambassador to Canberra after documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged Australia's intelligence agency targeted Yudhoyono's mobile phone, that of his wife and of other senior government officials.
In a series of tweets, President Yudhoyono warned the relationship between the two countries was going to be badly affected if no official explanation was to be provided and bashed Abbott's unapologetic approach.
These US & Australian actions have certainly damaged the strategic partnerships with Indonesia, as fellow democracies. *SBY*
— S. B. Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) November 19, 2013
We will also review a number of bilateral cooperation agenda as a consequence of this hurtful action by Australia. *SBY* — S. B. Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) November 19, 2013
I also regret the statement of Australian Prime Minister that belittled this tapping matter on Indonesia, without any remorse. *SBY* — S. B. Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) November 19, 2013
However, speaking before parliament in Canberra, Abbott reiterated his position that no such clarification was needed.
"Australia should not be expected to apologise for the steps we take to protect our country now or in the past, any more than other governments should be expected to apologise for the similar steps that they have taken," Abbott said.
Abbott said he regarded president Yudhoyono "as a good friend of Australia" and regretted if the media revelations had somehow caused him an embarrassment.
However Australia was not going to provide details on its intelligence gathering, he said.
"Australia should not be expected to detail what we do to protect our country any more than other governments should be forced to detail what they do to protect theirs," Abbott, who was elected PM in September, said.
"Others should ask of us no more than they are prepared to do themselves."
The Indonesian government replied it was to reconsider its levels of cooperation with Canberra in retaliation.
''We'll continue to review the Indonesia-Australia relationship in general, not only regarding information exchange and intelligence. We'll continue to downgrade our relationship with them and it's up to them where the process ends," Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The names of President Yuhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono were listed as monitoring targets in 2009 documents from the Australian Defence Signals Directorate (now Australian Signals Directorate), leaked by Snowden to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.and The Guardian.
The agency reportedly attempted to listen to the president's conversations at least once and tracked calls made to and from his handset for 15 days in August 2009.
The diplomatic row began escalating earlier this month, after other documents leaked by Snowden revealed the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was used as a hub for US intelligence scooping.