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Subject: Notes from UN press conference
Date: Wed, 05 Aug 1998 16:35:45 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <etan@etan.org>

A press conference was held at the end of the talks between Indonesia's Foreign Minister Alatas, Portuguese Foreign Minister Gama and the Secretary-General. Below are some quick notes.

John M. Miller

The S-G said that there was "very good progress" but refused to characterize the talks as a "breakthrough". He said there was a serious proposal on the table and that the talks were now in "the process of moving forward."

Alatas said that Indonesia intended a reduction in military forces in East Timor, but did not envision a time when they were all withdrawn. A residue of forces would remain taking into account security needs.

Alatas (who was asked most of the questions) said that the release of Timorese political prisoners did not include Xanana. Alatas repeated previous statements about Xanana having been convicted of "criminal acts" and that his release would be part of an overall settlement.

Alatas said that he interpreted the point on the SG consulting with Timorese as meaning exiles abroad since he said Indonesia consulted with Timorese "in Indonesia" and represented them in the talks. The SG he said would keep exiles "abreast of developments."

The SG said that he planned to consult with a range of East Timorese and that he had a clear idea of who he wanted to consult, mentioning specifically upcoming meetings with Bishop Belo and Ramos-Horta in Lisbon.

Alatas said the notion of autonomy up for discussion was very broad up to but not including foreign affairs, military, and some monetary and fiscal policy . He said they were willing to negotiate the shape of autonomy that it was not "unilaterally conceived." Their concept was one that "conformed to international norms." He mentioned education, political affairs, cultural policy and economic affairs as areas where autonomy could be granted. Both he, Gama and Annan said that the autonomy discussion did not preclude any final political solution.

Portugal said its interest section would be with the Dutch who already represent them in Jakarta. Alatas said its would probably be in the Thai embassy in Lisbon, but they do not yet have their agreement.

Gama said that their was an area of commonground to discuss the particular matters in the Communique such as autonomy.

Alatas made his pitch that autonomy offer was sincere and the best solution. He disturbingly reiterated his concern (threat) that other solutions could lead to civil war in East Timor.

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