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Subject: RT: EU urges dialogue, troop cuts
Date: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 10:38:55 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <etan@etan.org>

European envoys urge dialogue, troop cuts in Timor 02:53 p.m Jul 23, 1998 Eastern

By Richard Waddington

LISBON, July 23 (Reuters) - European envoys, whose visit to East Timor last month was cut short by violence, urged Jakarta on Thursday to reduce its military presence in the troubled Pacific territory and seek more dialogue.

In a report following a fact-finding visit to Indonesia, which included a brief trip to Timor, the trio of European ambassadors said that local people must be consulted for any lasting solution to the territory's future.

``It is our impression that there will be no lasting solution in East Timor without a firm commitment to some form of direct consultation,'' the ambassadors from Austria, Britain and the Netherlands said in their report, a copy of which was released in Portugal.

``There is an urgent need to promote immediate dialogue involving East Timorese leaders, for flexibility from all sides...and for the implementation of confidence-building measures,'' the report said.

East Timor was annexed by Indonesia in 1976 after a bloody invasion and Jakarta has since rejected calls for the people, who are mainly Roman Catholic, to be allowed a say in whether they should remain part of the world's largest Moslem nation.

It regards the former Portuguese colony, which Lisbon abandoned in disarray in 1974, as its 27th province. But the United Nations has never recognised its sovereignty.

A man was shot dead by security forces during a pro-independence rally in Dili when the envoys visited the capital of East Timor on June 30. The ambassadors left the territory early in protest.

The ambassadors said Indonesia, which admits to having some 12,000 troops and police in East Timor for a population of 800,000, should immediately reduce their number ``in a visible way.''

``In particular, withdrawal of Kopassus (special forces) troops should be a top priority,'' they said.

Human rights activists, who say that some 200,000 died in the military takeover of East Timor and subsequent hardships, have frequently accused the military of continuing abuses.

But the troika, which was sent to Indonesia amidst signs that Jakarta was anxious to resolve one of its thorniest diplomatic issues, also called on Portugal to ``deepen its involvement in the process.''

The search for a solution has picked up pace after the fall of former president Suharto, the former army strongman, whose 32-year rule ended in May amidst economic and political turmoil.

Portugal, which backs the demands of the East Timorese resistance for a referendum on the future of the territory, is due to hold a fresh round of ministerial-level talks with Jakarta in New York in August.

The envoys said that ``many interlocutors'' had suggested that Portugal open an Interests Section in Jakarta, noting that such a move was supported by jailed East Timorese guerrilla chief Xanana Gusmao.

``The restoration of visa rights between Indonesia and Portugal, and the exchange of high-level visits, would also be welcomed,'' the report said.

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