Sat, 16 Sep 2000

Indonesia and UNTAET sign agreement

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): The Indonesian government and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) signed on Friday an agreement on jointly resolving the East Timor refugee problem.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Lt. Gen. (ret.) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The two parties agreed to cooperate in overcoming conflicts along the border, including the problem of "pro-Indonesia refugees".

They agreed to offer options to about 130,000 East Timorese refugees, either to be resettled in Indonesia or return to East Timor. The memorandum does not set a specific deadline for resettlement.

"The signing of the memorandum reflects the cooperation between Indonesia, UNTAET and CNRT (National Council for East Timor Resistance) in settling various difficulties which emerge at the borderline, particularly with the refugees," said Susilo, who signed in his capacity as acting minister of foreign affairs.

CNRT leaders Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao and Jose Ramos- Horta also attended the signing ceremony. Indonesian Military Commander Adm. Widodo A.S. and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra were also present.

Shortly after the ceremony, Susilo reported to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who was also on a two-day visit to Bali.

In the afternoon, Susilo flew back to Jakarta and met with ambassadors from members of UN Security Council.

"It's part of our initiative to explain what we have been doing and will be doing in responding to the UN resolution," said Susilo, after the meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building.

While rejecting the use of the term "disarming" in regard to the militia, Susilo noted that the government would conduct several steps to ask militiamen to hand over their remaining weapons.

"We would be very happy if the ambassadors could go there (Atambua)," Susilo said when asked about the government's invitation to the ambassadors to visit the border town in west Timor.

Susilo is due to leave for New York on Sunday to directly meet with the UN Security Council on Monday. Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab is also expected to attend the briefing at the UN.

"We are waiting for the meeting with Mr. Yudhoyono on the efforts being taken by the Indonesian government to implement UN Resolution No 1319," Security Council rotating president Mochtar Ouane said on Friday in New York as quoted by Antara.

The resolution was passed last week following the killing of three UN aid workers in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara.

The resolution demands that the Indonesian government immediately disarm and disband pro-Jakarta East Timorese militiamen blamed for the death of the three UN personnel.

It also urges Indonesia to take immediate steps to ensure the safe return of refugees who want to go back to East Timor and the safety of those who resettle in Indonesia.

The United States ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, in New York on Friday also reiterated the need for Indonesia to take stern measures to ensure that violence does not erupt again in west Timor.

Holbrooke also charged that elements of the Indonesian Military were directly or indirectly responsible for the killings.

While Susilo and Alwi are in New York, United States Defense Secretary William Cohen is scheduled to meet with President Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday.

Speaking in Manila on Friday, Cohen said violence in Indonesian west Timor must be stemmed, and the government should hold the military accountable for last year's devastation in East Timor.

Indonesia risks rising foreign condemnation and continued military isolation from the U.S. unless something is done about west Timor, Cohen told reporters.

"That is going to be an important visit -- to remind the President and especially the military -- that they need to take strong action to curb the militias in West Timor," Cohen said, as quoted by Reuters. (zen/swa/jun/prb)