Subject: AFP: UN Talks to begin
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 10:38:27 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Agence France Presse Indonesia, Portugal to respond to UN autonomy plan for ETimor
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18
Indonesia and Portugal are due to respond Thursday to UN autonomy proposals for the territory of East Timor, annexed by Jakarta 20 years ago, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Wednesday.
The proposals were put to both sides at talks here last month chaired by Jamsheed Marker, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal representative for East Timor.
Details were not revealed, but Marker told the Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias last week that the UN proposals include plans for elections for an autonomous government as a first step toward self-determination. Indonesia and Portugal have agreed to leave aside East Timor's final status at this stage, to the frustration of East Timorese resistance groups which are pressing for a referendum on self-determination.
However a diplomatic source close to the process told AFP that "things are moving in a generally positive direction."
The UN-sponsored talks are to resume Thursday for at least four days at UN headquarters at ambassador level, involving Portuguese foreign ministry senior official Fernando Neves and his Indonesian counterpart Nugroho Wisnumurti. At present the discussions are focusing on the parameters of a constitutional framework for autonomy, including a future currency and the division of power between the proposed autonomous government and Jakarta.
However a western diplomat said that Portugal would also continue to press parallel demands for a UN presence in East Timor to "counter disinformation," and for the independent monitoring of Indonesian troop withdrawals from the territory.
So far, Indonesia has been cool to both proposals.
UN chief Kofi Annan is meanwhile pressing Indonesia to release jailed East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao, and has been keeping East Timorese representatives closely informed of the tripartite talks.
The diplomatic source close to the talks said that without Gusmao's release, there is a danger of a radicalization by both sides, at a time when the Indonesian authorities are faced with a period of student unrest.
The United Nations continues to regard Lisbon as the official administrator of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed a year later.
The UN-sponsored talks on a political settlement, which have been held regularly since 1983, have gained momentum since the ouster of Indonesian President Suharto in May.