Friday, November 13th, 2015 - ANTARA News Agency

JAKARTA, Nov 13, 2015 - (ACN Newswire) - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has expressed gratitude to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for lending assistance in handling land and forest fires. President Widodo accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo received the visiting Australian prime minister and his wife Lucy at the State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday.

"Congratulations on your appointment as the Australian prime minister," Widodo noted here on Thursday. The president also lauded the opening of the Consulate General of Australia in Makassar.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Turnbull also said he felt honored to meet President Widodo in Indonesia. "Australia and Indonesia have shared a close friendship for the past seven decades," the prime minister pointed out.

According to Turnbull, Australia had provided diplomatic support to Indonesia after it gained independence. Moreover, the prime minister underlined the Lombok Treaty that symbolizes and formalizes the mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

Earlier, the Australian government had intensified its contribution to Indonesia's efforts to mitigate the effects and spread of forest and peat fires, which have caused widespread health issues across Indonesia.

Through the Indonesian Red Cross, Australia will help provide vital equipment in Riau, East Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan to provide immediate relief to communities ailing from respiratory and other illnesses as a direct result of the smoke and haze.

"Through the Indonesian Red Cross, we can reach out to the worst-affected communities by providing safe houses, ambulances, medical teams, emergency oxygen, and 30 thousand face masks," Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson said as quoted by the Australian Embassy here on its official website on Wednesday.

According to Indonesian authorities, more than 500 thousand Indonesians are suffering from respiratory ailments caused by the haze. Australia's contribution of AUD300 thousand to the Indonesian Red Cross will support its health initiatives in the three provinces over the next three months.

It follows the deployment of two aircraft - a Lockheed L100 Hercules water tanker "Thor" and a support aircraft - that joined the international efforts and dropped more than 300 thousand liters of water in South Sumatra last month. --Antara.

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