We will keep trying and negotiating.
Jakarta (ANTARA) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) stressed that efforts are still being made to free Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, a New Zealand citizen, who is being held hostage by the separatist group led by Egianus Kogoya in Papua.

"We will keep trying and negotiating," Jokowi told reporters at the Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta on Monday.

He departed for Australia to attend the 2023 Annual Leaders Meeting.

Jokowi drew attention to several steps taken by the government to free the New Zealander, but said that information about them could not be disclosed to the public.

"Actually, the government has done a lot of things there, but I cannot reveal them here," the president explained.

The pilot was abducted by the armed separatist group on February 7, 2023.

The group also set fire to the Susi Air Pilatus Porter PC 6 aircraft that he was piloting after landing at Paro Airfield, Nduga District, Papua Pegunungan Province.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD refrained from providing details on the progress made in efforts to release the abducted pilot.

Mahfud told journalists at the Presidential Palace to inquire with the Indonesian Military (TNI) Chief about the matter.

Earlier, Papua Regional Police Chief Inspector General Pol Mathius Fakhiri expressed hope that the group led by Egianus Kogoya would release Mehrtens.

According to Fakhiri, security forces are prioritizing negotiations to free the pilot.

However, he noted that the two issues of independence and firearms could not be agreed upon.

Meanwhile, TNI Commander Admiral Yudo Margono affirmed that negotiation would remain the main strategy for freeing Mehrtens, while stating that violence would not be the best approach.

Jokowi is scheduled to visit Jayapura, Papua, on July 7 to attend the Papua Street Festival.

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Translator: Rangga Pandu AJ, Sri Haryati
Editor: Anton Santoso
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