Subject: Howard urges Timor commitment

30 January 2002



Thank you Mr President.

May I first extend my congratulations to you on the assumption of the Presidency of the Council. Might I also acknowledge Madam Deputy Secretary General, Louise Frechette and also very particularly Jose Ramos Horta with whom my Government and the people of Australia have had a significant association over the past few years.

This, I understand, is the first time for some years that an Australian Prime Minister has addressed the Security Council and I think it’s appropriate that the address takes place in the context of a debate on the future of East Timor. Australia was a founding member of the United Nations and in fact provided the first President of the Security Council and we continue to very strongly support the relevant role of the Security Council in the modern world.

Its contribution to the emphatic response of the world to the outrageous terrorist attacks in this city last year is current evidence of that relevance as indeed is illustrated again by the debate today on Afghanistan.

Australia has been a strong supporter of the world’s response to that, to those terrorist attacks and we were one of the very first nations to send military forces to assist the United Nations, United States’ efforts within Afghanistan.

We strongly support the work done in the United Nations to ensure there is a broad international front against terrorism and it’s critical that this international co-operation be one of action as well as words and this is what Australia will look to from the United, from the Council in implementing its resolutions.

I want to thank Sergio Vieira de Mello for his report in the name of the Secretary General in relation to the renewal of the mandate for East Timor until independence. I take this opportunity of recording Australia’s admiration for his stewardship over the last two and a half years. It has been an example of United Nations work in difficult circumstances at its very best. I also join others in saying how much we look forward to East Timor assuming her independence in a hundred and ten days time. I shall be delighted myself to represent Australia at the Independence celebrations on the 18th to the 20th of May.

East Timor, as I said, has been a prime example of the Security Council's capacity to respond promptly and decisively to pressing issues. The mandate that enabled the deployment of INTERFET laid the foundation for a successful and effective long-term resolution of a difficult and chronic problem and Australia is indeed honoured to have played such a key role in that success.

Two years ago the Security Council entrusted UNTAET with a major and unprecedented task and the success of UNTAET is manifest in East Timor’s rapid move towards independence. I do pay tribute not only to Sergio Vieira de Mello’s own leadership but also to his UNTAET team, including the members of the Peace Keeping Operation, the United Nation’s civilian police, East Timorese members of the Transitional Government and Secretariat officials here in New York.

The renewal of the UNTAET mandate prefaces a new phase of UN involvement in East Timor. The Security Council must now give priority to preparation and planning for the post-independence UN mission. Decisions taken by this Council in the coming months will have a crucial bearing on the long-term success of East Timor. We cannot rest on the successes, great though they are over the past two years, for without continued support, those successes cannot be sustained.

East Timor remains a small fragile country. A start to reconstruction has been made, but there is still a long way to go. Australia and other donors are committed to East Timor’s long term sustainable development. But there also needs to be an assurance of solidarity from the UN system.

You’d be well aware of the significant contribution Australia has made to the UN peacekeeping operation in East Timor, through both military and civilian police contingents. Over the period July 1999 to June 2001, Australia spent A$1.4 billion on its military contribution. We’ve also committed A$150 million for the four years from July 2000 to help with reconstruction and development in East Timor.

I will inform the Council that Australia will continue to play its part, both through the United Nations and also bilaterally to support East Timor. We are committed to a substantial bilateral assistance program to reduce poverty and build capacity of the East Timorese people to govern their country successfully in a peaceful and democratic fashion. In the Timor Sea Arrangement, we have agreed on generous arrangement for revenue from the Timor Sea gas fields which will make a big contribution to East Timor’s future.

We look forward to working closely and pragmatically with our new neighbours, both on bilateral issues and, as fellow Member States of the United Nations, in regional and global organisations. In this regard, I am pleased that we shall begin trilateral meetings between East Timor, Indonesia and Australia on the 26th of February when senior East Timorese representatives will meet representatives of my Government and the Government of Indonesia in Denpasar.

The relationship between those three nations is very important to the future of East Timor and its people. East Timor will, however, need more than the help and goodwill of its nearest neighbours. A seamless transition from UN administration to a functioning post-independence government is vital to success in the long-term. We should not undo the good work already done by skimping on resources. It is critical that the UN stay to course and Australia will play a significant part in the staying of that course and leaves East Timor well equipped to deal with the challenges of independence. This is the best guarantee of minimising the country's longer term reliance on international support.

Australia agrees that the UN's role in East Timor is not open-ended. The Security Council must set in place an exit strategy that preserves the international community’s investment in East Timor’s future. And that in turn will secure East Timor's capacity to function effectively over the long-term.

I conclude by assuring you that Australia will continue to play a significant part for so long as that participation is needed. We will work closely with you to support United Nations efforts and the new East Timorese government.

I record again the overwhelming sentiment of the people of Australia in expressing to Jose Ramos Horta and through him to the people of East Timor our goodwill for your future. There is concern and sentiment in my country towards you and your people. We wish you well. We look forward to working with you as fellow members of the international community and as participants in our part of the world. I again congratulate Sergio de Mello on his great stewardship and Mr President I thank you most warmly for the privilege of addressing the Security Council.


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