|Subject: UN: Transcript of Press Conf with UNSG,
Date: Sat, 01 May 1999 08:40:01 -0400
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <email@example.com>
UNITED NATIONS Press Release SG/SM/6966 23 April 1999
THE SECRETARY-GENERAL: Ladies and gentlemen, I am back again, this time with more good news, so today is a good day. We don't have many of those these days.
I am pleased to inform you that after a very productive and successful round of meetings in which a lot of ground was covered, we have an agreement between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of Portugal on the question of East Timor. The agreement has been finalized and will be signed together with its annexes in New York on 5 May.
There are two additional documents which were presented to the delegations for the first time this week. These cover the security arrangements for the peaceful implementation of the popular consultation in East Timor and the modalities for the consultation.
Foreign Minister Alatas has indicated that while his side has no substantive difficulty with either document, he would have to obtain the approval of his authorities before he can sign them.
I look forward to concluding this historic process on 5 May this year, when all these agreements will have been signed. I am grateful for the customary spirit of cooperation and statesmanship displayed by the two Ministers, which has enabled us to make such progress.
I welcome the reaffirmation by the Indonesian Government that it will effectively carry out its responsibility for law and order and the protection of civilians. I should also underline the responsibility of all the parties that signed an agreement this week to end the violence in East Timor to fulfil their obligations without delay. Peace and stability are vital in East Timor.
I will be happy to take your questions, or maybe the Ministers both want to say something briefly before we open it up to the questions.
Mr. GAMA: Mr. Secretary-General, it is for us on the Portuguese side very important that these steps lead to a lasting solution to the problem of East Timor and that peace be restored there in order to allow a consultation on the future of the territory. The effectiveness of these agreements we are going to sign next 5 May is crucial in restoring stability and peace in the territory, disarming the militias and not giving them weapons or means to counter acts against the spirit of the negotiations, which have been so professionally conducted by Ambassador Marker and by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
THE SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you very much. Ali.
Mr. ALATAS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. I too would like to say how pleased we are to have achieved agreement on the documents that you have just mentioned. The only thing was that the two documents on security and on the modalities of how the United Nations will conduct the consultations, et cetera, were put before us only at this meeting. Although we have [inaudible] referendum agreement among us about the text, I will need to bring it to my Government for their final approval. So we are very much looking forward to the signing of the main agreement, its annex on the proposed autonomy plan and the two agreements on security arrangements and the modalities of the consultation process, on 5 May.
Meanwhile, I would like to share with the media here a very important development that has occurred in East Timor. All the parties concerned -- on the one hand, of course, the armed forces; and then the two bishops of East Timor; all the conflicting parties on both sides, those who are pro-integration and those who are pro-independence; plus the local government, et cetera -- have come together as a response to the initiative taken by our national commission on human rights. They signed a very important agreement on 21 April, the text of which we can distribute to the press also. I think this is a sign that we will indeed assume our responsibility to make sure that a conducive situation will be existing in East Timor -- conducive towards the implementation of the agreements that we have just reached on consulting the views of the East Timorese on the proposed autonomy plan that will hopefully soon, in a few days, be fully publicized.
So, again, I very much look forward to the day that we can sign this agreement so that we can start the process rolling, Mr. Secretary-General. Once again, thank you very much for all your help and the help of Ambassador Jamsheed Marker.
THE SECRETARY-GENERAL: As Fred told you, I will have to leave to receive a Head of State. But, finally, I would also really want to pay tribute to Ambassador Marker, an outstanding negotiator, and his team for the work that they have put into this effort. I think they really deserve our gratitude and appreciation for the work they have done. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: We welcome you on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association.
The most important thing may be the disarmament of the militia and ensuring peace and tranquillity. In the agreement, who is going to supervise that? The United Nations, or Indonesia and Portugal? What is the mechanism?
Mr. ALATAS: In the agreement that was signed between the parties concerned, we will note that it is first and foremost the laying down of arms by all parties, not only the so-called militia. I think the international press and the international community must come around to acknowledging that what we have in East Timor is a conflict between two groups of people: those who want independence, and those who have accepted integration. And that has been the situation for 23 years. It is continuing now and is becoming, unfortunately, more pronounced and sharper as we move towards the day when they are going to have to express their views on whether they would like to have autonomy or whether they would reject autonomy.
It is not a question of only disarming the so-called militia -- this is confusing the issue. It is disarming both sides. And this is the next step, of course, because disarming means also that the Falintil, who are in the mountains, should also be disarmed. Otherwise, the groups that are now fighting against them -- the pro-integrationists -- will never surrender their arms. So it is a much more complex problem. But fortunately, now we have the means, we have the forum -- and this is very important -- of leading personalities, including the two bishops, who will now work very hard to ensure that after the laying down of arms, after the cessation of hostilities, we can move forward to disarmament, et cetera, to reconciliation. But, in the meantime, the first thing is that we make sure that an atmosphere and condition that is conducive is created in East Timor for the implementation of the agreements that we have now reached, and which will be implemented.
QUESTION: The United Nations is going to supervise the disarmament or the parties?
Mr. MARKER: We are still waiting for a final confirmation of the security arrangements. But at that time the United Nations presence will definitely be there. And exactly what shape or form that will take has to be worked out. But the objective is quite clear, that there has to be a stopping of the fighting. The quickest and most effective way to do that of course is to have disarmament. But you can also have a stop with a ceasefire. We will have to find out and see when we go in there what the situation is. But I am confident that an effective method can and will be found.
QUESTION: Could you please outline what the proposals are -- I realize that it still has to go back to Jakarta -- but what the proposals are for an international presence in the lead-up to the vote. What international presence are you envisaging?
Mr. MARKER: We are working on the details of that now. In fact, we have been working on it in-house over the last week. I am not in a position to give you either the extent or the nature of that. We are doing that ourselves first. Then we will discuss it with the two Governments. But clearly this is a matter of the utmost importance. We are aware of that and we are working on that.
QUESTION: I would like to know whether there is an agreement on the date of the consultations, and also whether it is going to be a consultation of one man, one vote, one day.
Mr. MARKER: There is, in principle, an agreement on all those points. But you will have to wait until 5 May to get the details.
QUESTION: I was actually going to ask a similar question. But since we are not going to get an answer to that, I was wondering if Foreign Minister Alatas could tell us what his assessment is of whether his Government is going to accept this agreement that has been worked out. At the moment it is a tentative agreement. Are you optimistic, pessimistic that is going to be accepted without changes, and that 5 May will stand, and that it will be able to proceed with a ballot probably in July -- that seems to be the target date?
Mr. ALATAS: Well, the main agreement and its annex, I think, have been tentatively cleared already -- although the main agreement was still pending when we came here -- so there would be no difficulties there. I hope that the two new agreements on security arrangements and on the modalities -- although we have no more difficulties here [inaudible] we could agree to the text -- will not pose any problems when I present to the Government.
But of course, I cannot go ahead of my Government. I will have to say factually; I will have to present it to the Cabinet, and hopefully they will agree, because, as I said, there has been [inaudible] agreement here at our level.
QUESTION: Are you still optimistic that a ballot could be held in July? That the consultations could be some time in July?
Mr. ALATAS: Well, as Ambassador Marker said, we have tentative dates in mind, but we cannot at this point reveal it to the press, because that is still part of the agreements that we are working on.
QUESTION: I was wondering whether Mr. Alatas would comment on the statements from the Australian Foreign Ministry yesterday, indicating support for a United Nations presence, and possibly even a peacekeeping presence, for East Timor. And I was also wondering whether Mr. Gama might want to evaluate how the situation on the ground seems to be in East Timor in the last day or since the signing of the ceasefire pact.
Mr. ALATAS: Well, I don't know exactly to what statement you are referring, but as far as a United Nations presence is concerned, I think it has all along been the general agreement among us that, the minute we reach the stage where an agreement or the agreement is going to be implemented, of course there will be a United Nations presence in East Timor for the implementation of that agreement. So there is no problem there. It is only now a question of the technical implementation of it: how, when and in what manner the United Nations will be there. This is precisely the subject of the modalities paper, one of the papers that we have discussed.
As far as your reference to an Australian statement on peacekeeping forces, I would like to say that, throughout our discussions, United Nations peacekeeping forces have never been an issue that has been raised. The United Nations will be there; there will be and adequate and, I think, sufficient United Nations presence, but there are many ways of a United Nations presence. But United Nations peacekeeping forces have never been AN issue that has been discussed.
Mr. GAMA: All the information we have is that, at least in the capital, Dili, there was a stabilizing tendency and that the signature of the agreement had a positive effect in calming down the situation. But in other areas in the countryside, there are new elements that do not go in the positive sense: intimidation, even some [inaudible] killings. Also, I showed my Indonesian colleague my deep concern about those events and the need to have stability and peace there, to stop and disarm the militias, not to give them any sort of impulse, in order to have peace agreements effective and not just a formal ritual.
QUESTION: That disarmament that you spoke about a few moments ago -- it's to be present immediately, to be use immediately right now? Both parties are agreed on that disarmament and the consequences of this agreement are to be right now?
Mr. ALATAS: Well, if you read the text of the agreement that was reached on 21 April among all the parties concerned, what they have agreed right now is a cessation of hostilities, of all kinds of violence, etc., of mutual provocations, etc.
And an important further step is that they have agreed on the establishment of a Peace and Stability Commission consisting of representatives of all those who participated in this agreement, and that this Peace and Stability Commission would do several things, among others, to endeavour to achieve disarmament among all the fighting groups, et cetera. They will do other things also, but they are, I think, going to be operational as soon as possible. And as I said, the most important thing -- the most urgent thing, however, is that even as disarmament is the next goal, at least in the absence of disarmament, temporarily, that there be a laying down of arms -- not a surrendering of arms, but a laying down of arms -- a cessation of fighting and hostilities and the creation of a situation in East Timor that would be conducive to the implementation of the consultation process.
QUESTION: Is the constitution of the Commission under way?
Mr. ALATAS: The Peace and Stability Commission is being established now; it is in the process of being established.
QUESTION: Mr. Alatas, you talk about a process of disarmament. Are we to take it that if there is to be no peacekeeping force and the United Nations presence is to be civilian and mainly connected with the consultation, that the only agency that will actually be policing disarmament will still be the Indonesian military, about which there has been, obviously, some criticism on the international scene in the light of recent events?
Mr. ALATAS: The Indonesian military and the Indonesian police are determined to take their responsibility to keep law and order and peace and tranquility in East Timor. And when the United Nations presence will be there, of course, they will consult one another, et cetera, but there will be no foreign peacekeeping forces, because that has never been discussed. So yes, the main responsibility will be shouldered by Indonesia.
QUESTION: So as you see it the United Nations main job will be a political job in terms of preparing for consultations as opposed to any kind of a security role.
Mr. ALATAS: Well, they will contribute to security. That is why we have a paper on security arrangements. But it will certainly not be in the form of a United Nations peacekeeping force.
QUESTION: I have a question for Ambassador Marker. Why does the United Nations not propose the sending of a peacekeeping force to East Timor? The United Nations considers that that is not necessary at this stage?
Mr. MARKER: The United Nations has, as you know, been in active negotiations in this whole process. As we see it right now, the process is on track. We have taken the word and the understanding of the Government of Indonesia that peaceful conditions will prevail. The United Nations cannot send a peacekeeping force by itself; there is a whole process to be raised, including discussions with the Government of Indonesia itself. We have not found it necessary under the present circumstances to send in a peacekeeping force, to parachute a whole lot of Blue Helmets down there. We don't think that that situation calls for that. We think it is much more important that we should give the diplomatic process a chance. And I think events have probably justified so far the validity of our reasoning.
QUESTION: Mr. Alatas, yesterday you used the word "referendum", and we were surprised by that.
Mr. ALATAS: In what context?
QUESTION: At the end of the day, when you were answering the questions for the reporters. And we were surprised. Is that is going to happen? A referendum?
Mr. ALATAS: I don't recall using the word "referendum", and if I had, I would have used it in the same context that I have always used it, and that is that we do not accept a referendum. And that hasn't changed. Our basic position is that we do not accept a referendum.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Alatas, you said that the date of a consultation is also included in the tentative agreement. Do you think that your Government -- the cabinet or parliament -- will definitely accept that date for the consultation?
Mr. ALATAS: From the very beginning of the negotiations we have proposed, and we have suggested, that we try to get the consultation process actually implemented before a certain date in August. It is we who want it as quickly as possible, but we will have to take into consideration the logistical arrangements that will have to be made and evaluated by the United Nations and so on.
So don't think that we will have difficulties with a date that is close. It is we who have proposed that [this take place as soon as possible] -- if possible in July. So it is now being negotiated on the basis of technicalities: what can be done in the remaining time in order to set the process in motion, what will be needed in terms of personnel, what will be needed in terms of material, and so forth. We have agreed on a date, but unfortunately we cannot reveal it yet. But I can tell you that it is a date that is very much in line with what our position has been all along, namely to have the consultations as soon as possible before the end of August.
QUESTION: Mr. Alatas, could you tell us please about the future of Mr. Gusmao.
Mr. ALATAS: The future? Well, we have said on several occasions that Mr. Gusmao will be released as part and parcel of the overall solution. So he cannot be released beforehand, as many have demanded, but he will be released as part and parcel of the solution. So we will have to discuss and determine later on at what point in the implementation of the solution he will be given a special pardon.
QUESTION: Is that in the agreement, for example will he be released on 5 May when the agreement is signed?
Mr. ALATAS: No, not yet, no agreement yet. No discussion yet either on this.
QUESTION: A question for Ambassador Marker. I know, Ambassador, that you cannot give us the precise shape and structure of any United Nations presence, but if we assume that the signing goes ahead as envisaged on 5 May, how soon would you expect United Nations personnel -- presumably civilian personnel -- to actually be arriving in East Timor.
Mr. MARKER: We have been working on it right now. We have been making all the preparatory arrangements in anticipation. One has to do that. So after that it is a purely logistical matter. I can't tell you that because we're still working on it. I hope to be here next week to work with my colleagues regarding what we can do. But certainly, as I see it, that light turns green on 5 May. It's red and amber at the moment.
For more information on Parliamentarians for East Timor, Please Contact:
Sharon Scharfe, International Secretariat PARLIAMENTARIANS FOR EAST TIMOR Suite 116, 5929-L Jeanne D'Arc Blvd., Orleans, ON K1C 7K2 CANADA
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