MANADO: Indonesia and Australia on Saturday (Jul 29) co-hosted a meeting to discuss how to combat the threat of cross-border terrorism and returning foreign fighters in the region of Manado, a North Sulawesi province.
The sub-regional cooperation meeting on fighting terrorist fighters and cross-border terrorism was attended by ministers and security officials from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and New Zealand, in the hopes of better countering the threat of returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria to the region as the Islamic State (IS) continues to lose its foothold in the Middle East.
The ongoing siege in the city of Marawi in the Philippines has also pushed countries in the region to cooperate more closely, out of concern of the returning terrorist fighters from the conflict zone.
In his welcoming remarks, Attorney General of Australia George Brandis expressed his condolences on behalf of Australia for the casualties of the conflict in Marawi. He also called terrorism a "menace" and said he hoped the meeting would grow to become a part of the regional architecture.
"The conflict in Marawi reminds us in the most immediate possible way of the urgency and the proximity of the threat that is faced by all of us," said Mr Brandis.
"It is appropriate therefore that a principle focus of this meeting will be on cross-border terrorism, and the foreign fighters' threat, dramatized as it has been by recent events in the Southern Philippines," he added.
Mr Brandis was echoing the sentiment of Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto. In his welcoming remarks, General Wiranto stressed that the meeting showed a "commitment and responsibility" to protect the nation and state from the threats of terrorism.
"We cannot keep silent, because the problem of terrorism has become a real threat to humanity. Not a single country is free from the threat of terrorism, and this threat must be faced together," he said.
He also emphasized the need to improve cooperation, either through the framework of strengthening the national capacity of each country, or through a bilateral, regional and international framework.
Mr Brandis expressed confidence that the meeting would produce a tangible outcome, which participating countries could move forward and implement to confront the "menace" of terrorism.
North Sulawesi is one of the provinces in Indonesia bordered directly by the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu sea in the Philippines. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia recently conducted joint patrols in efforts to stop Islamist militants from reaching Marawi, in the southern island of Mindanao.
General Wiranto said he hoped participants in the meeting would also discuss the efforts to overcome the threat of terrorism in the two seas.
The meeting in Manado is a follow-up to the meeting on counter-terrorism and terrorism financing also co-hosted Indonesia and Australia in Bali last August. Delegates from other countries include the Philippines' National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Deputy Minister of Brunei at the Prime Minister's Office, Hamdan Abu Bakar, New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee, and Deputy Home Affairs Minister of Malaysia Masir Kujat.
Indonesia's National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, and Counter-Terrorism Chief Suhardi Alius were also in attendance.