Subject: Indonesian official says East Timor's president willing to discuss Timor Gap

BBC Worldwide Monitoring

February 24, 2004

Source: Tempo Interaktif web site,

Jakarta, in Indonesian 23 Feb 04

Indonesian official says East Timor's president willing to discuss Timor Gap

Excerpt from report by Jem's de Fortuna, carried by Indonesian Tempo Interaktif web site on 23 February

Kupang: President of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, welcomed the Indonesian request for further discussions on the Timor Gap issue involving three countries, East Timor, Indonesia and Australia.

Xanana's views were contained in an official presidential note addressed to Ferdi Tanoni, the chairman of West Timor Care Foundation (YPTB), who is also the chairman of Working Groups on the Timor Gap and Ashmore Reef, in Kupang recently.

Tanoni, who was contacted by the Tempo News Room in Kupang on Monday (23 February), said that the official note signed by Xanana, which was received at the end of last week, stated "We (Xanana) will contact the YPTB to discuss further the issue of the Timor Gap."

According to Tanoni, he was still waiting for an official invitation from Xanana to discuss various issues relating to the interests of the Timor community (East Timor and West Timor, West Nusa Tenggara) in the Timor Sea. passage omitted

"Xanana is a wise leader because he is aware how important it is to improve and strengthen relations between East Timor and Indonesia, and the need to have relations based on mutual respect with neighbouring countries, in particular Indonesia, which is the closest neighbour to East Timor," he said.

In relation to the planned meeting, Tanoni hoped that Australia would take the same measures. "The Australian Prime Minister John Howard needs to make himself available for meetings with Indonesia and East Timor to discuss the issue of the Timor Gap, not unilaterally claim that the issue of the Timor Gap has been settled with the separation of East Timor from Indonesia, " said Tanoni.

He added that the best and fairest way to resolve the various issues of valuable resources in the Timor Sea, including the Timor Gap and the Ashmore Reef, was to divide it evenly between Indonesia, East Timor and Australia, for the welfare of the people of West Timor, East Timor and Australia.

According to him, it was not right that East Timor's prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, and foreign minister, Ramos Horta, should object to holding negotiations, while Xanana as president, has stated that he was prepared to sit down with the other leaders and discuss these issues together.

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