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Albanese says he’ll go to G20 meeting Putin also plans to attend

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will attend the G20 Leaders' Summit in Indonesia, despite Russia signalling plans for President Vladimir Putin to participate.

Announcing the decision on Monday afternoon after informing Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a bilateral meeting in Bogor, Albanese stressed the importance of Australia's relationship with its largest neighbour and the G20 as a global institution.

"I'm focused on sitting with President Widodo, not sitting with President Putin," he said.

"It is in Australia's interest to have good relations with our Indonesian friends."

Earlier this year, Russia's ambassador to Indonesia, Lyudmila Vorobieva, said Putin "wants to go" to the leaders' meeting but that would depend on "many, many things", including COVID-19.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison indicated hesitance to attend alongside Putin and said he'd raised concerns with Widodo, who has confirmed the Russian president's plans to attend and been unwilling to revoke his invitation to the October summit.

"The idea of sitting around a table with Vladimir Putin, who the United States are already in the position of calling out war crimes in Ukraine, for me is a step too far," Morrison said in March.

Albanese on Monday pointed to Putin's attendance at the G20 in Australia in 2014, months after he annexed Crimea, saying that didn't mean the country agreed with his stance. 

"Indeed, we find President Putin's behaviour to be abhorrent, to be illegal, to be a travesty of the international order and betraying the norms of behaviour that we expect from every member country of the UN, let alone a member of the UN Security Council," he said.

The prime minister said Australia's relationship with Indonesia was one of its most important, hence why he wanted his meeting with Widodo to be his first bilateral international visit.

The trip to the country of more than 270 million people comes amid growing tensions in the region, with China seeking to have a stronger influence in the Pacific to Australia's east.

Albanese said China's mid-air interception of an Australian military reconnaissance aircraft last month, including the setting off of flairs and dropping of chaff in its path "didn't come up" in his meeting with Widodo.

"The big topic of discussion was about our relationship, Australia and Indonesia. That was that was the focus of the discussion," he said, when asked directly if the two leaders spoke about China's role in the region.

"Obviously, there's a context of the strategic competition, as it was called, is part of that context, but we're very much focused on our bilateral relationship, was the focus of the discussions and that is as you would expect."

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