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New Zealand diplomats keep monitoring pilot hostage in Papua

Tempo - February 24, 2023

Daniel A. Fajri, Jakarta – Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah confirmed that the New Zealand government had sent representatives to Timika, Papua, to monitor pilot Philip Mehrtens who was held hostage by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) for the past two weeks.

"The New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta deployed their consular officers to Papua. New Zealand's representative specifically deals with consular matters for its citizens," said Faizasyah via text message to Tempo, Thursday, February 23.

According to the report of New Zealand-based news media RNZ on February 15, three New Zealand diplomats and two staffers from the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry landed in Mimika to monitor the progress of the search for the Susi Air pilot by the separatist group.

Chief Media Advisor of New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Corinne Ambler told Tempo on Thursday, February 23, that the welfare of its citizens is the top priority.

"We are doing everything we can, including deploying New Zealand consular staff, to secure the safe release of the hostage," Ambler said.

"We are working closely with the Indonesian authorities to ensure the safe release of the New Zealander," she said, adding that the captain's family asked for privacy "at this incredibly challenging time."

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson stopped short of providing further details about the rescue efforts. Yet Ambler said, "this is an evolving situation."

Meanwhile, Faizasyah emphasized that the rescue operation of captain Mehrtens was the authority of the Indonesian government.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD has not yet responded to Tempo's request for confirmation regarding the progress of the rescue and the stagnant diplomatic approach.

On Tuesday, February 21, Mahfud claimed the government had already discovered the whereabouts of Captain Mehrtens and had surrounded the areas of the Papuan armed group.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1695355/new-zealand-diplomats-keep-monitoring-pilot-hostage-in-papu