US diplomat apologises after Indonesia general denied entry

2017-10-23 12:34
Indonesian Armed Forces Chief General Gatot Nurmantyo poses for a photo. (Achmad Ibrahim, AP, File)

Indonesian Armed Forces Chief General Gatot Nurmantyo poses for a photo. (Achmad Ibrahim, AP, File)

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Jakarta - A US diplomat apologised to Indonesia's government after the top Indonesian general was prevented from traveling to Washington and said on Monday the military commander is welcome in the US.

Erin McKee, the deputy US ambassador to Indonesia, did not explain why General Gatot Nurmantyo was prevented from boarding a flight to the US but said the matter had been resolved.

McKee met with Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Monday morning and said she apologised. US Ambassador Joseph Donovan also offered an apology, according to a statement on Sunday from the embassy.

"We deeply regret the inconvenience that this incident caused and we apologise," McKee told reporters.

"There are absolutely no issues with his ability to travel to the United States. We welcome him. The embassy is working very hard to understand what happened," she said.

Nurmantyo and his wife had planned to leave Indonesia on Saturday evening but were told by their airline shortly before departure that US Customs would deny their entry, according to military spokesperson Wuryanto, who goes by one name.

Nurmantyo had been invited by General Joseph Dunford, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to attend a conference in Washington on countering extremist organisations.

Wuryanto said that Nurmantyo, his wife and an entourage of four officials had US visas and that Nurmantyo last visited the US in February 2016.

Relations between the US and Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, are generally friendly.

Indonesia's military has a checkered human rights record, but Nurmantyo himself has not been accused of rights abuses.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said on Sunday that the Indonesian Embassy in Washington had sent a diplomatic note to the State Department.

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