Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Swedish government vows to help Indonesia on GAM issue

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs Laila Freivalds said on Wednesday her government was prepared to help Indonesia resolve its standoff with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), several of whose leaders live in self-imposed exile in Sweden.

Freivalds made the offer during bilateral talks with Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"Any assistance that Sweden can offer to resolve this (GAM) problem, let us know," Freivalds was quoted as saying by Retno L.P. Marsudi, the director of West European Affairs at the Indonesian foreign ministry.

Freivalds arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday ahead of the 15th ASEAN-EU meeting on Thursday. During her two-day stay here, Freivalds also will meet with Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin.

During the meeting on Wednesday, Hassan briefed his Swedish counterpart on the results of recent informal meetings between the government and representatives of the Aceh rebels in Helsinki.

Representatives of the government and GAM held two rounds of talks at the Koeningstedt estate outside of Helsinki. The talks were mediated by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

The Helsinki talks were aimed at exploring if it would be possible to reach a comprehensive solution to the conflict in Aceh within the framework of special autonomy for the province.

Hassan stressed that Indonesia would not give in to GAM's demands for independence, and asked the Swedish government to continue the legal process against GAM members living in Sweden.

"On one hand, we are trying to resolve the problems with GAM (such as through the Helsinki talks), but we also ask the Swedish government to continue taking legal steps against them," Retno said.

GAM has been fighting for independence for the oil-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra since 1976, claiming that the Indonesian government has plundered Aceh's resources.

Since the start of the conflict, more than 12,000 people have been killed.