Subject: E. Timor, Indonesia fail to agree on land corridor to enclave

Kyodo News Service July 7, 2000, Friday

E. Timor, Indonesia fail to agree on land corridor to enclave

DILI, East Timor

U.N.-administered East Timor and Indonesia have yet to clinch an agreement on modalities for a land corridor to connect East Timor proper with an East Timorese enclave surrounded by Indonesia-ruled West Timor, U.N. officials said Friday.

U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) officials said that during a third round of negotiations in Surabaya that ended Wednesday, the Indonesian side restated its concerns about security along the passageway.

The Indonesian delegation instead proposed the opening of a ferry link between the Oecussi enclave and East Timor proper, while UNTAET counter-proposed an interim bus service with a military escort, officials said.

The two sides agreed to investigate both options, they said, adding that the next round of talks is scheduled for September.

The 2,461-square-kilometer enclave, surrounded on three sides by Indonesia-ruled West Timor, is situated along Timor Island's northern coast, about 70 km west of the border of East Timor proper.

A joint communique concluded between UNTAET and Indonesia on Feb. 29, and signed in the presence of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, envisaged a 'special corridor' between Oecussi and the other districts of East Timor in which there would be unimpeded access for people and goods.

But the Indonesian side has since expressed concerns about security along the proposed land route in light of the presence in West Timor of about 100,000 East Timorese refugees, among them thousands of members of militia groups that violently opposed independence for East Timor.

It has also voiced worries about vehicles breaking down or wear and tear on the roads in question, which are in poor condition already.

UNTAET officials said they have proposed that, as a practical interim measure, a bus escorted by Indonesian police or military could ply the proposed land route two or three times a week. If the experiment is successful, the bus service could be increased to once a day.

After that, a system could be developed where people could take private vehicles in convoys, they said. Eventually a system would be set up whereby anybody with documents allowing them to be in East Timor could, without requiring an Indonesian visa, use a corridor to cross to the other part of East Timor without deviating from the prescribed route.

While goods might be subject to some inspection and control, they would not be subject to customs duties, UNTAET officials said.

Like the rest of the former Portuguese colony, which was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years, most of Oecussi's infrastructure was trashed before the Indonesians left last year. Its remoteness has severely hampered the task of reconstruction.

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