Subject: DN: JRH says E TImor can be self-sufficient

May 20, 2003


Text of interview by Carlos Albino with East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta: "Xanana and the government have done well, but judges have not" by Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias web site on 20 May

Diario de Noticias Timorese independence was difficult to achieve, how do you feel a year on?

Horta The balance is considerably positive: the president has done a good job, as has the government and parliament. But the judges have not done well. But at the end of the day the balance is considerably positive, especially in terms of peace and security. Timor is now one of the calmest places in the region with low crime and violence figures.

Diario de Noticias The whole world promised help with Timor's reconstruction. What do you think of that solidarity?

Horta The international community has kept its promise with significant aid to cover budget shortfalls and with the Development Programme.

Diario de Noticias "Yesterday" others were voting at the UN on Timor, "today" Timor votes on others. Has your country chosen a particular "alignment"?

Gusmao Timor's stance on major international issues has been well-thought out and prudent, always weighing our interests and the concerns of our neighbours.

Diario de Noticias How relevant is Portugal for Timor in the medium and long-term?

Horta The freedom we celebrate today would not exist had it not been for Portugal's active solidarity and selfless and persistent efforts. Portugal remains a key ally and an advocate for Timor with other countries.

Diario de Noticias Before independence, it was said Timor would be an economically-viable country, is this still true?

Horta Despite depending on foreign aid in the medium and long-term, Timor has a real chance to become self-sufficient and independent. In addition to natural gas and off-shore oil, we have major resources such as marble and other minerals as well as great fishing potential. I am certain that in the medium-term Timor will become an important tourist destination for Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese and others in the region.

Diario de Noticias Timor Sea oil has been a major hobby-horse since 1975. How is this issue affecting relations with Australia?

Horta Australia has shown great solidarity and it is our second largest donor after Japan. It will be a market for our produce and manufacturing exports when these industries develop. But because it is also a guarantor of our security, Timor has to be seriously committed to its relations with Australia. This is what we are doing, and gradually we have been able to overcome our differences over energy sources in the Timor Sea.

Diario de Noticias Timor is also doomed to have a special relationship with Indonesia.

Horta Relations with Indonesia have always been marked by a great sense of realism, pragmatism and respect. Since the time of former President Abdurrahman Wahid until the current president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the Indonesian authorities have shown statesmanship, openness and cooperation. We have made progress in the negotiations on our maritime border, which I hope to see concluded this year, perhaps in June or July. We are also going to start negotiations on our common border.

Diario de Noticias Looking back, how do you assess Sergio Vieira de Mello's head of former UNTAET, UN Transitional Administration in East Timor role?

Horta Sergio Vieira de Mello was the UN secretary-general's correct choice for the difficult period of creating from scratch a state with its necessary institutions. Timor continues to be a real success story of which the UN can deservedly feel proud. The USA should use the UN's experience in East Timor and Kosovo to involve it more in the transition process in Iraq.

Source: Diario de Noticias web site, Lisbon, in Portuguese 20 May 03

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