US apologises after Indonesian military chief denied boarding

In this picture taken on February 25, 2015, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign stands at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C.. (Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)

The US has apologised after Indonesia’s military chief Gatot Nurmantyo was cleared to travel to the US after initially being prohibited from boarding a flight to Washington.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Monday that the issue had been resolved after she earlier met with deputy US ambassador to Indonesia Erin McKee. Marsudi told reporters Indonesia was still seeking an explanation as to why Nurmantyo was stopped from travelling.

“In the context of clarifying their explanation, they are currently coordinating with relevant authorities in the US to find out what really happened,” Marsudi said. “They also said that the ban is no longer there, has been revoked, and General Gatot is warmly welcomed to resume his visit to the US.”

Nurmantyo, who had been invited by General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to attend the Chiefs of Defence Conference on Countering Violent Extremism that runs from October 23-24 in Washington, was told he would be denied entry to the US, and was prohibited from boarding an Emirates flight on Saturday. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, is a US ally and hasn’t been included in any of the travel bans ordered by President Donald Trump.

“We deeply regret the inconvenience that this incident caused and we apologise,” McKee told reporters on Monday. Nurmantyo declined to comment when contacted by telephone on Monday.

The US Embassy in Jakarta, in a statement on its website, said it has been in touch with Nurmantyo’s staff throughout the weekend and “remains prepared to facilitate the general’s travel to the United States.” It made no mention of why he was stopped from travelling or by whom, only that he was “unable to travel as planned.”

“We remain committed to our strategic partnership with Indonesia as a way to deliver security and prosperity to both our nations and peoples,” the embassy said.

Nurmantyo and his wife were told by airline staff just before their scheduled departure that they were blocked from travelling by US Customs and Border Protection, Wuryanto, a spokesman for the Indonesian military, said at a press conference Sunday. The general has visited US on several occasions, Wuryanto said.

US Ambassador Joseph Donovan apologised for the incident, according to the statement. The Indonesian embassy in Washington has sought clarification from the State Department, spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said in a text message.

A State Department spokesman didn’t elaborate on the embassy statement or the apology. A message seeking comment from a Customs and Border Protection spokesman was not immediately returned. – Bloomberg

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