Subject: E. Timor confident first ambassador from Indonesia will strengthen ties

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse

September 16, 2003

East Timor confident first ambassador from Indonesia will strengthen ties


East Timor said Tuesday it believes whoever is named Indonesia's first ambassador to its former province will only strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Nelson Santos, acting secretary general of the East Timor Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was commenting after reports that Indonesia President Megawati Sukarnoputri wants a senior member of the national intelligence service named to the ambassador's post.

Santos told AFP East Timor had not been notified so it could not comment on the proposal to send Ahmad Bey Sofwan, a deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), to the East Timorese capital Dili as ambassador.

"In any case, we believe whoever the Indonesian government appoints to Timor Leste will only strengthen the relationship and friendship that already exists between the two countries," he said from Bali, where he is on his way to China with a government delegation.

An Indonesian parliamentary committee must approve Megawati's nomination but said it did not want the status of the diplomatic mission in Dili upgraded to embassy status until outstanding issues were settled between the two countries.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, also known as Timor Leste, in 1975 and withdrew after a 1999 independence vote led to a bloody campaign by Indonesian security forces. An estimated 1,000 East Timorese died and much of the territory was left in ruins.

The former Portuguese colony became independent in May 2002 after 31 months of United Nations stewardship.

East Timorese leaders are seeking to co-operate with their former foes and say they want to focus on the future, not the past.

An Indonesian human rights lawyer has said that given the history of the two countries, appointing a member of the intelligence service would be inappopriate.

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