|=Subject: RT/AP: Indonesia, Portugal Sign Landmark
Pact On E Timor
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:27:22 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Indonesia, Portugal Sign Landmark Pact On E Timor 06:08 p.m May 05, 1999 Eastern
By Anthony Goodman
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Indonesia and Portugal signed landmark accords Wednesday to enable the people of violence-plagued East Timor to decide if they want wide-ranging autonomy under Indonesian rule.
If they reject autonomy, as has been widely predicted, Indonesia promised in a major policy switch in January to reverse its annexation of the former Portuguese colony and allow it to become independent.
The signing, by Foreign Ministers Ali Alatas of Indonesia and Jaime Gama of Portugal at U.N. headquarters, climaxed more than 15 years of U.N.-sponsored negotiations that followed Indonesia's 1975 invasion and later incorporation of the territory of 800,000 as its 27th province.
According to the agreement, the Timorese will be asked to vote on one of two questions: ``Do you accept the proposed special autonomy for East Timor within the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia?'' or ``Do you reject the proposed special autonomy for East Timor, leading to East Timor's separation from Indonesia?''
``This is a historic moment,'' U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who signed as a witness to the agreement, said. ``I strongly urge all elements and political tendencies in East Timor to refrain from any resort to force and to cooperate with the United Nations in fulfilling its vital tasks.
A major fear is that anti-independence militias, with the surreptitious backing of elements of the Indonesian army, will expand a campaign of violence that has already claimed scores of lives and disrupt plans for the U.N.-organized autonomy vote, or ``popular consultation,'' set for August 8.
Some 200,000 Timorese died in fighting or as a result of hunger and disease that followed Indonesia's occupation, blackening Jakarta's international reputation. Portugal had abandoned East Timor after its 1974 anti-fascist revolution.
Alatas and Gama signed the autonomy accord, with Annan as a witness. All three then signed two other accords dealing with the organization of the vote and security arrangements.
Gama immediately announced Portugal was contributing $10 million for the U.N. operation to prepare for the vote which will include a contingent of 600 civilians. In addition there will be an unspecified number of unarmed U.N. civilian police.
The U.N. Security Council plans to welcome and endorse the agreement Thursday or Friday. Gama said the U.N. operation was estimated to cost between $30 million and $45 million.
There are no plans to deploy a large force of U.N. peacekeeping troops, as called for by pro-independence groups who do not trust Indonesia's military and police to ensure conditions for a free and fair vote.
Alatas said all agreed on disarmament of the militia ``but we are realistic enough to know that special steps need to be taken.'' He said disarmament required the cooperation of all groups, including those favoring independence.
``And that requires some doing,'' he told a questioner at a news conference.
``I think we can move forward to a solution of a long-standing question, a question that has brought already a lot of sorrow and suffering to the East Timorese people but which we hope by August 8 will lead toward a solution one way or another,'' Alatas aid.
Gama stressed the need for a secure environment for the vote. Addressing Alatas, he said: ``All of us are now committed to have these agreements as our law and to abide by what is in the spirit and the letter of what we have agreed.''
The agreement signed by the parties says that Indonesia is responsible for maintaining law and order and that the ''absolute neutrality'' of the Indonesian armed force and police was essential. But it said that Annan would ascertain ``that the necessary security situation exists for the peaceful implementation the consultation process.''
Eligible to vote will be everyone age 17 or above who was born in East Timor, had at least one parent born there or is married to a person who meets these requirements.
Exiles can register and vote in a variety of countries, including Australia, Portugal, Mozambique, Macao, the United States as well as several cities in Indonesia.
Wednesday May 5 6:15 PM ET
Indonesia Signs East Timor Agreement
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - More than 23 years after Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, the two countries signed a historic agreement Wednesday allowing the Timorese to vote on whether to remain part of Indonesia or seek independence.
The agreement, signed by the Indonesian and Portuguese foreign ministers, outlines Indonesia's proposal for autonomy for East Timor and provisions for the U.N.-supervised Aug. 8 referendum. If the 800,000 Timorese reject autonomy, Indonesia has pledged to put the half-island territory on the road to independence.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who played a key role in bringing 15 years of U.N.-sponsored talks between the two countries to a successful conclusion, said he hoped the agreement would ``open a new and more peaceful chapter in the history of this troubled territory.''
He urged an end to the recent upsurge in violence between pro- and anti-independence militias in East Timor - an issue that dominated the signing ceremony and threatens the U.N.-supervised ballot.
Fighting has escalated since the Indonesian government in a surprise policy reversal announced in January that it would offer the East Timorese independence if they reject autonomy. Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year.
Annan met earlier Wednesday with foreign ministers Ali Alatas of Indonesia and Jaime Gama of Portugal over the security issue.
Diplomats said both sides agreed that Annan will set out minimum security requirements for the ballot to take place, including disarmament of rival militias and a reduction of Indonesia's military forces in the territory.
``Without security, there is no real capacity for the people to choose in peace and freedom,'' Gama said.
Pro-independence groups, which accuse the Indonesian military of backing Timorese anti-independence militias to disrupt the peace process, had hoped for a U.N. force to keep security.
Instead, the Indonesian government will be in charge of security in the run-up to voting - assisted by an undetermined number of U.N. peacekeeping advisers, according to the deal.
A 600-strong U.N. mission will oversee the ballot, a U.N. official said.
Alatas told reporters the agreement provides that Indonesia ``will endeavor to disarm all the factions.''
But he said Indonesia could not promise to disarm the militias immediately because of ``some difficulties'' - including getting the pro-independence rebels down from the mountains and talking to them.
Gama said the agreement marks ``a dramatic shift'' in Indonesia's position because it recognizes for the first time self-determination for the Timorese and gives the United Nations a role in security and organizing the vote.
>From now on, he said, Indonesia's actions in East Timor will be watched on the ground by the international community. The Indonesian military has been accused of human rights abuses in the territory.