Subject: JP: E. Timor concedes sovereignty over dispute island to Indonesia

August 19, 2004

E. Timor concedes sovereignty over dispute island to Indonesia

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post/Kupang

East Timor has acknowledged Indonesian sovereignty over disputed Batek Island, a senior Indonesian Military (TNI) officer said on Wednesday.

Emerging from a meeting with East Timor officials in Kupang, Col. Moeswarno Moesanip said the acknowledgement came from East Timor foreign minister Ramos Horta.

Horta made the statement after reviewing several documents and maps during the meeting that proved that the island was Indonesian territory and not East Timorese, said Moeswarno, head of Wirasakti military command overseeing East Nusa Tenggara province.

The meeting followed Horta's recent visit to Bali, where he met his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirayuda to discuss the prosecution of Indonesian generals over the 1999 violence in East Timor.

Batek Island, located near Kupang regency in East Nusa Tenggara, became a contentious issue after the East Timor government claimed at the beginning of this year that it was part of Oecusi, its enclave in West Timor.

Responding to the claim, the Indonesian government said East Timor had never controlled the island and the nation's red-and-white flag had flown there since December 2002.

The dispute heated up further in January, when Ramos Horta criticized the TNI for holding military exercises on Batek at the end of 2003.

According to data at the Kupang administration, the island, which is uninhabited and only slightly bigger than a soccer field, is part of Oepoli village in North Amfoang subdistrict, near international waters.

Due to its strategic location, fishermen from both countries often use the island as a transit point.

With the acknowledgment of Ramos Horta, the dispute over Batek Island has been put to rest.

In the meeting with East Timorese officials, TNI authorities also agreed to conduct joint patrols with East Timor along their shared border to prevent smuggling.

Meanwhile, Horta expressed concern that several East Timor militant groups living near the East Nusa Tenggara border were trying to destabilize the tiny new country.

Moeswarno quelled the concern, saying that the TNI would not allow any groups to use East Nusa Tenggara as a base for operations to destabilize its neighbor.

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