JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia said on Monday that Australia would be excluded from a list of 45 countries to be offered visa-free travel amid heightened tensions between the countries over the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug traffickers.
Tourism Minister Arif Yahya told reporters the government would next month start waiving visas for citizens of several Asian and European countries and then ask for reciprocity, but that the same policy would not be applied to Australia.
“If we give visa-free travel to Australia, we have to be given the same thing,” Yahya said. “It cannot be that we give it to them first.”
Yahya denied the decision was tied to the planned execution of the two Australians, who are among a group of 10 convicts, mostly foreigners, due to face the firing squad for drug offences.
“I can guarantee that if the Australian government wants (to agree to visa-free travel), that the foreign minister and president will almost definitely want it too,” the minister said.
The planned executions sparked public backlash in Australia last month, including a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #BoycottBali calling on tourists to avoid traveling to the Indonesian resort island of Bali, a popular destination among Australians.
Australian tourists accounted for 12 percent of foreigners visiting Indonesia in 2014, according to the Indonesian statistics bureau, making them the third largest group after Singaporeans and Malaysians.
Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Jeremy Laurence