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East Timor: independent observers required.



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NEWS RELEASE

 

LAURIE BRERETON MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

 

66/98

18 October 1998

 

EAST TIMOR: INDEPENDENT OBSERVERS REQUIRED

 

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today called on the Howard Government to support the estab lishment of a team of independent international observers to monitor military activity in East Timor.

 

“Reports that the Indonesian Government has recently reinforced its military presence in East Timor will not help progress toward a negotiated settlement”, Mr Brereton said.

 

“Political change in Indonesia has created a window of opportunity to achieve a long overdue settlement of the East Timor conflict. But this opportunity could easily be lost if dialogue and negotiations are undermined by suspicion and allegations of bad faith.”

 

“Indonesia’s withdrawal in July this year of some 1,000 troops from East Timor was a welcome development. The news that these troops have been quietly replaced will erode trust and lead to further questioning of the Indonesian Government’s commitment to achieving a genuine negotiated settlement.”

 

Last week United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan responded to reports of new offensive operations by Indonesian military forces by calling for a cessation of all military activity in East Timor and for a substantial reduction of the Indonesian military presence in the territory.

 

On Saturday, the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers reported that a senior Indonesian military officer in Dili has confirmed that the troops withdrawn from East Timor amidst much publicity in July have been replaced, saying: ‘It is correct we haven’t reduced numbers. This is just a normal troop rotation.’

 

“These reports confirm the need for full transparency in relation to Indonesia’s military presence in East Timor”, Mr Brereton said. “Experience in conflicts throughout the world has demonstrated the value, indeed the necessity, of an independent monitoring presence to build the confidence and trust conducive to successful negotiations.”

 

“The Howard Government should lend wholehearted support to the UN Secretary-General’s call for an immediate cessation of all military action in East Timor and urge acceptance of an independent international presence in East Timor to monitor the Indonesian military presence and all other armed groups in the territory.”

 

“Real progress toward a lasting East Timor settlement is unlikely to be achieved amidst allegations of clandestine military action and arming of para-military squads. Establishment of an independent and effective international monitoring presence in East Timor would allow dialogue and negotiation to proceed in an environment characterised by transparency, improved confidence and trust.”

 

Contact: Philip Dorling (02) 6277 4717 or 0416 203 058

 

 

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