Subject: RT: Marker sees progress
Date: Tue, 21 Jul 1998 11:37:46 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
INTERVIEW-U.N. sees progress on
JAKARTA, July 21 (Reuters) - Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas will be asked to ``flesh out'' new proposals on the future of East Timor when he meets his Portuguese counterpart in New York next month, U.N. special envoy Jamsheed Marker said on Tuesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has invited Alatas and Portugal's Jaime Gama to meet in New York on August 4 to discuss Jakarta's latest proposals to settle the issue of East Timor.
Indonesia annexed East Timor 22 years ago, but there has been a continuing separatist insurgency in the territory. The United Nations officially recognises Portugal -- the former colonial authority -- as the administrative power.
Marker, named by Annan early last year as his special envoy on the former Portuguese colony, told Reuters in an interview the proposals offered a window of opportunity which should be quickly seized.
``It's certainly a wide-ranging proposal for autonomy, one in which the details need to be discussed,'' he said at the end of a six-day visit to Indonesia.
He said he expected the New York meeting to clarify elements of Jakarta's proposal for East Timor.
``We'll certainly be... asking the Indonesian foreign minister to flesh it out. There are certain aspects, certain questions that all of us need to ask of him, and that will be done during those discussions,'' Marker said.
He said they would also discuss what steps to take next, and what sort of confidence building measures could be put in place to help the process along.
Alatas presented the fresh proposals to Annan in New York three weeks ago after Indonesia's new President B.J. Habibie said he was willing to consider a special status for troubled East Timor.
Marker flew to Lisbon to pass the proposals on to the Portuguese, although the government there had quickly dismissed the idea of a special status for the territory under Indonesian rule.
The U.N. envoy arrived in Jakarta last Thursday primarily to report on his Lisbon visit to the Indonesians, and both he and Alatas said they had been encouraged by the Portuguese response.
Asked on what grounds they felt encouraged, Marker said Portuguese leaders ``viewed as very positive the developments that had taken place (in Indonesia), the political developments this year.''
These included ``more freedom, the freedom of association... the freeing of political prisoners, and in that context, they thought that the proposal itself was a positive development.''
Portugal's president, prime minister and foreign minister had seen positive elements, ``and certainly one that justified further discussion,'' Marker added.
The new Indonesian proposals were put forward following the resignation of hard-line president Suharto and his replacement by Habibie on May 21 amid economic turmoil and growing demands for political reforms.
Marker declined to go into specifics of the proposals, but he said he believed after discussions with Habibie and military leaders that there would be ``demilitarisation fairly quickly'' of East Timor.
Indonesia invaded the territory in December 1975 and annexed it the following July in a move never recognised by the United Nations.
The Indonesian armed forces have been accused by civil rights groups of abusing human rights in the territory of 800,000 people, leading to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 during the invasion and as result of hardship over the years. Demilitarisation is seen as a key to change in East Timor.
Marker said two things had impressed him in talks with different groups during a four-hour visit to East Timor on Sunday: ``First was the desire for a peaceful solution, an early one but a peaceful one. And the second was a desire... for an intensification of the dialogue.''
He said he had also emphasised the need to cool tensions in the territory, where at least three people died during anti-Indonesian demonstrations late last month.
``I think there's an air of uncertainty, an air of high expectations and a desire for a settlement through dialogue. And it's very important that we don't disappoint them in any of these expectations,'' he said.
Marker also said he hoped Indonesia and Portugal would set up special interest sections in friendly embassies in each other's capitals to establish at least a form of diplomatic relations.
He said he had discussed this with East Timorese guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao, serving a 20-year sentence in a Jakarta prison for armed insurgency.
Gusmao said after the meeting he favoured setting up special interest sections even before he was released from prison. A Portuguese demand that he be freed had thwarted a move in early 1996 to establish ties between the two countries.