Subject: AN: Jakarta Welcomes Portuguese PM's Plan To Visit Indonesia
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 09:20:30 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>



The Indonesian government will in principle welcome Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres' willingness to visit Indonesia after the August 30 UN-administered autonomy ballot in East Timor, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sulaiman Abdulmanan said Monday.

"I think, we will in principle welcome his visit if it is purely aimed at increasing bilateral ties that benefit the two countries," Abdulmanan said.

Prime Minister Guterres' wish to visit Indonesia was reported in "Visao" magazine in its early August issue.

He was quoted as saying he wanted to visit Indonesia after the ballot on East Timor's political future was over in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties.

"I have planned a trip to India, Ankor temple in Cambodia and the Central Asian region. At that time, I also want to visit Indonesia after the popular consultation in East Timor has been completed," Guterres said.

In his interview with the magazine, whose circulation reaches 89,000, he said his Asian visit was aimed at improving Portugal's relations with peoples in Asia.

Guterres was also quoted as saying Lisbon had given the task of attending to the East Timor issue to Pastor Vitor Melicias from the Portuguese High Commission for the Transitional Period in East Timor which was officially set up in early June 1999.

In response to the premier's willingness to visit Indonesia, Carlos Galvao De Melo, chairman of the Portuguese-Indonesian Friendship Association (PIFA), said it would be a positive move to rebuild good relation with Jakarta which had been broken off due to the East Timor problem.

"I am one of many in Portugal who regretted the Portuguese government's decision to freeze its diplomatic ties with Jakarta in 1975 because of the East Timor issue," he said," Since then, the people of Portugal are not well informed on Indonesia."

De Melo is a retired general in the Portuguese Air Force and one of the top figures behind the "Flower Revolution" to topple President Americio Thomas and Premier Marcelo Caetano in the 1970s.

He said Lisbon decided to break off diplomatic ties with Jakarta which ended with the recalling of top Portuguese diplomat in Jakarta, Guilherme de Sousa, and Indonesian Ambassador Ben Mang Reng Say.

The writer of "Um Politica e Militar" (Politics and Military) said many Portuguese politicians in Lisbon had aired the need to normalize diplomatic ties with Jakarta after the holding of the UN-supervised ballot on autonomy which will pave the way for the people of East Timor to determine their own future.

It must be admitted, he said, Guterres' willingness to visit Indonesia was to reciprocate the goodwill of President B.J. Habibie's administration to find a comprehensive and internationally-accepted solution to the East Timor issue.

More than 400,000 East Timorese will cast their votes in the autonomy ballot inside and outside the troubled former Portuguese colony which integrated into the Republic of Indonesia in 1976.

Jakarta offers them a wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia. If the majority of the East Timorese people reject the offer, 700 members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) will consider East Timor's separation from Indonesia.


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