United States diplomats to Indonesia apologised after the country’s armed forces chief was denied entry to the U.S., even though he had been invited by his American counterpart.
General Gatot Nurmantyo, Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian National Defense Forces had been invited by General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to attend a conference on countering violent extremism which takes place on October 23 and 24.
Gatot and his wife were to depart Indonesia for the U.S. on Saturday evening but their airline told them shortly before that U.S. Customs would deny them entry, military spokesman Wuryanto said.
Erin McKee, the deputy U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, apologised in person to Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi on Monday morning. U.S. ambassador Joseph Donovan is currently visiting a remote region of Indonesia.
Speaking to reporters, McKee said “We deeply regret the inconvenience that this incident caused and we apologise,” McKee said, adding “There are absolutely no issues with his ability to travel to the United States. We welcome him. The embassy is working very hard to understand what happened.”
McKee did not explain why Gatot was prevented from boarding a flight but she said the matter was resolved.
Responding, Marsudi said: “I’ve said that it was not enough. We still need an explanation of why the incident happened.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis also apologised and guaranteed the incident would not happen again, The Jakarta Post reported.
Mattis met with Indonesia’s defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in the Philippines on Monday, the ministry’s spokesman Brigadier General Totok Sugiharto said.
“Minister Ryamizard accepted the apology that was conveyed during the short bilateral meeting,” he said.
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta issued a statement confirming that Dunford invited Nurmantyo to “attend a Chiefs of Defense Conference on Countering Violent Extremism” but said that “General Gatot was unable to travel as planned.”
“U.S. Ambassador Joseph Donovan has apologized to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi for any inconvenience to General Gatot,” the statement said.
The embassy said that its staff attempted to facilitate Gatot’s travel throughout the weekend.
It remains unclear why Gatot was barred from entry. An Indonesian military spokesperson said visas and other travel documents were arranged before the scheduled visit.