Fri, 17 Mar 2000

TNI, UNTAET vow to guard border

ATAMBUA, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) and the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) pledged on Wednesday to work together to stop reported cross-border attacks by pro-Jakarta militias.

The head of the Udayana Military Command, Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, said measures to follow up the agreement would include increasing joint patrols along the border between East Timor and East Nusa Tenggara and exchanging military liaison officers.

"TNI will provide access to UN military liaison officers in our territory and in several security posts along the border, and vice versa," Kiki said during a joint press conference with chief of UN peacekeeping force in East Timor Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos here.

"This is proposed to increase our communication, and we hope we can exchange information without any suspicion or fear of being misinterpreted," he said.

The meeting on Wednesday was held after De los Santos and other UNTAET officials visited Jakarta last week to lodge complaints with the Indonesian government about repeated militia incursions into East Timor from East Nusa Tenggara, the Indonesian half of Timor island.

UNTAET claimed there were 16 such incidents over the last four weeks near the border, saying it suspected the incursions were the work of prointegration militia.

President Abdurrahman Wahid reportedly was concerned and unhappy with the reported militia attacks.

However, Kiki contended on Wednesday the incidents occurred far from the border, saying TNI therefore was not responsible for the breaches of security.

Kiki, who headed the military mission in East Timor after martial law was imposed in the territory in September last year, said a battalion of troops would be deployed to reinforce the 689 military personnel already stationed along the border. But he added that TNI's force would remain far smaller than that of UNTAET.

"TNI's concern is mainly to maintain security along the border and to help in the UN's repatriation of the refugees," Kiki said.

Both Kiki and De los Santos did not specify a time frame for the agreement.

De los Santos said Wednesday's meeting was "very fruitful and productive", adding that the results of the meeting with Kiki would be referred to his superiors in the UN, because any troop deployments or assignments required their approval.

UNTAET and TNI have been on the defensive over reports of escalating tension along the border, where both forces have joint security responsibilities.

De los Santos dismissed on Wednesday allegations that the UN peacekeeping force distrusted TNI's sincerity in maintaining peace and order on the border.

"I trust General Syahnakri and his sincerity, and we communicate well." (lem/emf)