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Subject: AFP: Jakarta pledges commitment to UN negotiations on E. Timor
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 08:59:25 +0000
From: Tapol

Received from Joyo

Jakarta pledges commitment to UN negotiations on East Timor

JAKARTA, Dec 22 (AFP) - UN envoy Jamsheed marker said Indonesia had Tuesday given its firm commitment to continue negotiations to settle the dragging dispute over East Timor.

"I received a lot of encouragement from the (foreign) minister as well as the assurances of Indonesia's firm commitment to this process as far as possible," Marker said after meeting Foreign Minister Ali Alatas.

Marker, special envoy for the UN secretary general, is on a nine-day visit to Indonesia to push forward a solution to the East Timor problem based on an Indonesian autonomy proposal.

"I had a very good meeting with the foreign minister," he said after a closed- door meeting with Alatas for almost two hours at the foreign ministry.

"We have discussed all aspects of the UN negotiation procedure of the autonomy plan ... and what we should do in the future is to pick a date for the next meeting," Marker said.

"We are now proceeding to report to his excellency the president on our discussion, seek his advice, his instruction and proceed from there," he said before heading to the presidential palace to meet with President B.J. Habibie.

"We both agree that the most important element just now is to keep calm and keep an atmosphere of peace, because without that the negotiations are not possible," Marker said.

He said Alatas had agreed on the necessity of keeping the atmosphere calm, and added he felt encouraged by what the Indonesian minister had told him.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, annexing it the following year after heavy fighting. The United Nations and most states continue to view Lisbon as the official administrator.

The UN secretary general's office has since 1983 sponsored a dialogue in New York between Indonesia and Portugal to find a settlement to the dragging problem.

After the fall of former president Suharto in May, the New York negotiations were given new life with Habibie's proposal for broad autonomy for the territory.

Suharto, a former army general, had ordered the 1975 invasion.

Marker, who on Saturday said agreement on the autonomy formula was "very close," arrived in Indonesia last week.

He spent the first three days meeting with top Indonesian generals and with jailed East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, now serving a 20-year prison sentence in Jakarta's Cipinang jail.

Xanana, whose release has been sought by several overseas governments to enable him to join the autonomy discussions, has also pledged support for the UN-sponsored talks.

But he has stuck to his position that autonomy must be followed by a referendum on self-determination within 10 years.

Marker also spent two days in East Timor, meeting with Indonesian military and goverment leaders there as well as representatives of pro- and anti-Indonesia movements.

But he had to beat a hasty retreat by helicopter on the last day of his visit Sunday when hundreds of pro-independence protestors stormed the airport in the capital of Dili, preventing him from boarding a regular civilian flight.

Asked whether he was discouraged by the incident, Marker said: "Not at all. I was not discouraged."

"People have their right to demonstrate to express their view. I think this is very encouraging that they were committed to do so, and I have taken note of those views and will report them to the secretary general," he said.

"I think the negotiations will go on. They have to go on. We are committed to it and they will go on. There may be difficulties in the way but that is all part of the negotiations," the envoy said.

"And we will meet those difficulties, Insya Allah (God's willing). I don't see any problem there," Marker said.

The envoy is scheduled to leave Jakarta on Wednesday.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 1420 80153 Email: Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh, 1973-1998

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