Subject: AFP: Indonesian military offers to work with former E Timorese foes

Asia - AFP

Indonesian military offers to work with former East Timorese foes Sat Sep 6,12:06 AM ET

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia's military has offered to cooperate with its former adversaries in the East Timor Defence Force, an East Timor embassy official said after a meeting between commanders of the two armies.

The offer came late Friday during 90 minutes of talks between Indonesian Armed Forces commander General Endriartono Sutarto and Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, commander of the small East Timor military force, said Juvencio Martins, counsellor at the East Timor embassy.

"It was very fruitful," Martins said. "It was very friendly."

Sutarto was "happy to help" the 1,500-member East Timor Defence Force and would ask his staff to work with East Timor's embassy to determine the most appropriate assistance, Martins said.

The commanders talked generally about training assistance, he said.

Ruak was formerly a commander in the Falintil rebel army that fought Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor that ended in October, 1999, after the territory voted overwhelmingly to separate from its giant neighbor which invaded in 1975.

Indonesian forces launched a scorched earth policy that left much of East Timor in ruins as they departed. The two countries say they have put the past behind them and are now focusing on cooperation.

Ruak said about 10 countries had offered support for East Timor's army.

"And he said, 'Why not do the same with our friends from Indonesia?'" Martins told AFP.

Sutarto told Ruak the two nations had "a bitter past" but that the former rebel's visit "was a sign of friendship and a sign of goodwill to put the past behind us."

The Indonesian commander also agreed with a request from Ruak that East Timor's army should join the regular consultative meetings between Indonesia's armed forces and United Nations peacekeepers, Martins said.

East Timor became independent in May 2002 after 31 months of UN stewardship but about 4,000 peacekeepers remain to support Ruak's army. The UN forces are to be gradually reduced before pulling out when the UN mandate expires next May.

Ruak arrived in Jakarta Friday for a semi-official visit that ends Sunday.

East Timorese prosecutors have indicted at least 26 Indonesian military officers including former armed forces commander General Wiranto for crimes against humanity in connection with the 1999 violence.

Indonesia has refused to hand them over.

Ruak's visit to Jakarta coincided with talks in Dili between Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and East Timorese leaders. The two days of talks aimed at enhancing cooperation ended Saturday morning.

Back to September menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu