Subject: AFP: Gusmao in "positive" first talks with pro-Indon Timorese leaders
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:22:13 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

*Gusmao in "positive" first talks with pro-Indonesian Timorese leaders

JAKARTA, March 6 (AFP) - Jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao met with seven opposing pro-integrationists here Saturday, and hailed the first ever talks between leaders of the warring sides as a positive beginning.

The unprecedented closed-door meeting was held in the ministry of Justice building in downtown Jakarta and lasted two hours.

It was designed to break the ice between the two bitterly-hostile sides -- one backed by Indonesia and the other fighting it -- as East Timorese are set to choose between independence and autonomy.

"The result (of the meeting) was very positive because we could meet as East Timorese and have our opinions heard as East Timorese to look into the future," Gusmao told reporters.

"We are starting a new era for East Timor," Domingus dos Dores Soares, general chairman of the East Timor Justice, Democracy and Unity Forum (FPDK), said on behalf of the pro-integrationist side.

Domingus Policarpo, another of the integrationists, told AFP later that his group had recommended that Gusmao, who is serving a 20-year jail term for armed rebellion, be released so that the talks could continue.

"If this dialogue is (to continue) it should be on the condition every participant should be on the same ground, then by that time it would be better if Xanana is released from prison," Policarpo said.

He said the FPDK would work on recommending his release.

The meeting came a day after both Gusmao and the integrationists, some of whom are militia leaders, had met with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Clemento Dos Reyes Amaral, secretary general of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights who took part in the meeting as an intermediary, denied that Albright had prompted the talks, saying they had been planned "several days ago."

But Policarpo said the invitation had been handed to them Friday by a Rights Commission official while they were in a Jakarta hotel to visit Albright.

Gusmao, who had reportedly been rebuffed by the integrationists earlier, defended Soares when asked why the long anticipated meeting had only taken place now.

"It's not that (it has been delayed), we have to think of the tension that we have had for the past 23 years. Now we have let go of that tension," he added.

"This is the first step in which we have assumed our willingness to carry on efforts into the future," Gusmao added.

"This was our first meeting ever with Xanana," Policarpo told AFP, addding that the "Forum has a concept for East Timor resolution should be carried out through dialogue and Xanana accepted this proposal."

He added that the process for future meetings was ongoing and would take some time to arrange.

"We don't know yet when ( the next meetings) are going to be held. It's an ongoing proceess."

A Justice ministry official said the meeting took place in the Ministry because it was "an appropriate" neutral meeting ground for the two groups.

He added that the Forum had brought along a letter from Pro-Integration militia Commander Joao Tavarez, which contained his wishes to meet with Gusmao.

"The letter has been delivered to Xanana and he has already agreed to meet," he said, but could not specify when a meeting would take place.

Jakarta announced in January that East Timorese could chose either broad autonomy or independence after 23 years of virtual military occupation.

But the announcement has sent tensions between pro-integrationists and pro- independence spiralling.

Several people have died in clashes in East Timor in the past few weeks and hundreds of Indonesian settlers and traders have left the territory by ship in anticipation that the choice will be for independence.

Albright said Gusmao, who is serving a 20-year sentence here for armed rebellion, had told her that he hoped to bring the warring factions together through dialogue and avert an escalation of the violence.

He has also called for an international "presence" in East Timor during the transition to either independence or autonomy to ensure a smooth transition.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and annexed it a year later in a move never recognized by the United Nations.

Talks under UN auspices between Lisbon and Jakarta are scheduled to resume next week to finalize the autonomy proposal.

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