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East Timor: new reports of civilian deaths and suspension of United Nations talks.



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NEWS RELEASE

 

LAURIE BRERETON MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

 

22 November 1998

80/98

 

EAST TIMOR: NEW REPORTS OF CIVILIAN DEATHS AND SUSPENSION OF UNITED NATIONS TALKS

 

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today expressed gra ve concern about new reports of civilian deaths in East Timor and reiterated Labor’s call for the establishment of an international presence to monitor military activity in the territory.

 

“New reports of civilian casualties in East Timor and continuing dispute over the size of Indonesia’s military presence in the territory are scarcely conducive to an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the territory”, Mr Brereton said. “International observers would make a major contribution to efforts to achieve a just and lasting settlement of this tragic conflict.”

 

Last week, the Portuguese Lusa news agency and other sources reported at least ten East Timorese civilians have been killed by Indonesian troops and pro-Indonesian groups since 13 November. In response, Portugal has suspended United Nations sponsored talks with Indonesia on the future of the territory.

 

On Friday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said through his spokesman that he is ‘seriously disturbed by reports of rising tensions and casualties involving civilians’ in East Timor. The Secretary-General renewed his call for an end to all military operations in East Timor and for all sides to show maximum restraint.

 

“These new reports of civilian deaths in East Timor are a matter of grave concern”, Mr Brereton said. “They should be the subject of urgent investigation and, if confirmed, strong protest by the Australian Government.”

 

“The suspension of the current UN sponsored talks on East Timor further demonstrates the great difficulty in making real progress toward a lasting settlement in an atmosphere marred by deep suspicion, mistrust and reports of killings. Substantive progress is similarly unlikely to be made in the absence of the free participation of a figure such as Xanana Gusmao.”

 

“The Howard Government should be forthright in pressing the Indonesian Government to immediately and unconditionally release Xanana Gusmao and other East Timorese political prisoners, and to accept an international presence to monitor military activity in East Timor and ensure human rights are respected.”

 

“Similarly the Howard Government should be active in impressing on the Indonesian Government the reality that a lasting East Timor settlement is unlikely without a process through which the East Timorese people can exercise their right of self-determination.”

 

“In the absence of a forthright Australian stand on these issues, movement toward a negotiated East Timor settlement may all too easily stall. In the absence of progress toward a just settlement, violence and conflict may well escalate.”

 

Contact: Philip Dorling 0416 203 058

 

 

 

 

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