Jakarta: The United States announced on Thursday it will resume cooperation with Indonesia`s special forces after ties were severed more than a decade ago over human rights abuses allegedly committed by the commando unit.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made the announcement after meeting with Indonesia`s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday in the capital Jakarta. Indonesia had said it wanted the United States to reconsider resuming joint training.
The decision will be seen as a victory for the Indonesian military, which has said it made great strides in improving its human rights record.
Indonesia`s special forces were accused of major abuses in the former Indonesian province of East Timor in the late 1990s. East Timor has since become independent.
"I was pleased to be able to tell the President that as a result of Indonesian military reform over the past decade ... and recent actions taken by the Ministry of Defence to address human rights issues, the United States will begin measured and gradual programs of security cooperation activities with the Indonesian Army Special Forces," Gates said at a press conference.
"This initial step will take place within the limit of US law and does not signal any lessening of the importance we place on human rights and accountability," he added.
Several countries, including the US and Australia, suspended joint military training in the wake of the rights abuse allegations, though Australia resumed training in 2005.
The US lifted an overall ban against training the Indonesian military in 2005, though it kept the restrictions against the Indonesian special forces — known as Kopassus.
"Our ability to expand after this initial step will depend on continued implementation of reforms with Kopassus and TNI as a whole," Gates said. "We consider this a very significant development in our military-to-military relationship and look forward to working even more closely ... in the years to come."
Gates didn`t elaborate on the specifics of the resumed cooperation, and took no questions from journalists.
International rights groups said members of Kopassus were linked to the disappearance of student activists in East Timor in 1997 and 1998 and were never held accountable.
In May, 13 US lawmakers sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gates, saying they worried about whether Indonesia will punish senior officers for past abuses.