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Greg Sheridan's take on Tony Abbott's handling of the relationship with Indonesia

Greg Sheridan's view published in today's The Australian newspaper - if anyone can point me towards President Yudhoyono's statement I'd be obliged.

TONY Abbott's letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been successful. That judgment is inescapable and incontestable.

The President, in his formal statement responding to the Prime Minister's letter, has spoken warmly of the relationship with Australia. He has also spoken warmly of Abbott, whom he describes as "my good friend". The President has committed to a process of consultation and negotiation with Australia to come up with a set of agreed protocols to cover intelligence sharing, among other things.

There are complications and troubles aplenty ahead. But so far, Abbott has handled one of the most complex international relations crises you could imagine extremely well. He has been calm throughout. He has stressed the key national interest that Australia has in its relationship with Indonesia. He has been warm and gracious towards the President.

He has also safeguarded Australia's key interests in maintaining its intelligence capabilities. He has stayed away from the obvious political points he could have made against Labor. He has responded to the President quickly, but with serious, indeed intense, deliberation at every stage.

There may still be very challenging days in this relationship to come, but whatever happens, this has been a solid performance by the Abbott government. It should give our allies, and the Australian people, a good deal of reassurance that this is a competent, sensible government fully conscious of the grave responsibilities it must shoulder in national security.

Overall, this was surely the most positive response the Indonesian President, universally known as SBY, could possibly have come up with. There was a great deal of nationalist outrage in Indonesia at the revelations that Australia's Defence Signals Directorate had been tapping the President's phone, and that of his wife and close associates, in 2009.

A lot of players in Indonesian politics were stirring the waters on this. Most big players in Indonesian politics are less internationalist, and more inclined to nationalist paranoia, than is the President himself. Indonesian friends tell me that behind the scenes one of the presidential candidates, former general Prabowo Subianto, was stirring up a great deal of anti-Australian trouble, even though in public Prabowo was fairly quiet.

But this story has a long, long way to run and we could still well be in for choppy waters ahead.

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