US diplomat apologizes after Indonesia general denied entry

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A U.S. diplomat apologized to Indonesia’s government Monday after the top Indonesian general was prevented from traveling to Washington, but a Jakarta official said the country expected a complete explanation.

Erin McKee, deputy U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, did not explain why Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo was prevented from boarding a flight to the U.S. but said the matter had been resolved.

In Washington, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Dave Lapan said Gatot was unable to board his flight due to delays arising from “U.S. security protocols.” The issue with his boarding approval was quickly resolved by U.S. authorities and he was rebooked on another flight but chose not to travel.

McKee met Monday with Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and said she apologized. U.S. Ambassador Joseph Donovan also offered an apology, according to a statement Sunday from the embassy. He is currently visiting a remote part of Indonesia.

Relations between the U.S and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, are generally friendly. Indonesia’s military has a checkered human rights record, but Nurmantyo has not been accused of rights abuses.

“We deeply regret the inconvenience that this incident caused and we apologize,” McKee told reporters.

“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,” she said.

Marsudi said Indonesia still expects the U.S. to provide a more complete explanation.

“I’ve said that it was not enough. We still need an explanation of why the incident happened,” she told reporters.

Nurmantyo and his wife had planned to leave Indonesia on Saturday but were told by their airline shortly before departure that U.S. customs would deny their entry, according to military spokesman Wuryanto, who goes by one name.

Nurmantyo had been invited by Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to attend a conference in Washington on countering extremist organizations.

Wuryanto said that Nurmantyo, his wife and an entourage of four officials had U.S. visas and that Nurmantyo last visited the U.S. in February 2016.

Lapan, the homeland security spokesman, said the U.S. government “is dedicated to ensuring that all persons traveling to the United States are screened and properly vetted. We regret that the passenger and his wife were inconvenienced.”

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