Subject: Canada Calls for Self-Determination for East Timor
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 1999 08:31:23 -0500
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <pet@web.net>

February 26, 1999

(3:30 p.m. EST)

No. 43

CANADA URGES PROGRESS IN THE UPCOMING EAST TIMOR TALKS AT THE UNITED NATIONS

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy today welcomed the progress made in the ongoing rounds of United Nations-sponsored tripartite (Portugal, Indonesia and the UN) talks on the future of East Timor, based in large part on the change in Indonesian government policy and their willingness to consider autonomy or independence for East Timor. In this context, Canada urges the parties involved in the negotiations to examine UN proposals for a procedure that would give the East Timorese an opportunity to exercise self-determination in accordance with their status as a non self-governing territory.

Canada views the UN Tripartite Process, under the auspices of the UN Secretary- General, as holding the best prospect for a peaceful solution to the issues affecting East Timor. These UN-sponsored discussions between Indonesia and Portugal are set to resume on March 9 in New York.

"The most effective way to ensure progress is through meaningful and comprehensive consultations with the East Timorese, as has been advocated by the UN Secretary General's Personal Representative, Jamsheed Marker," Mr. Axworthy said. "It will be up to the parties involved, with the assistance of the UN, to decide on how consultation with the East Timorese will take place."

Minister Axworthy reiterated Canada's concern about the level of violence in East Timor. He called for an immediate end to violence and a process of disarmament by all parties, including civilian militias. In this regard, the Minister declared Canada's support for the proposal by East Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmao, for a Peace Commission, which would bring together a group of Timorese leaders and Indonesian officials to calm tensions in East Timor as the territory prepares to express itself about its future. The Minister renewed Canada's call for the full and unconditional release of Mr. Gusmao and other East Timorese political prisoners.

In addition, Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) Raymond Chan commended the UN for its involvement in the process of determining East Timor's future. "The UN, and particulary Special Representative Marker, have played a crucial role in moving toward a resolution to this issue," Mr. Chan said. "Canada believes that the UN should establish a presence in East Timor in order to enhance its effectiveness there."

Minister Axworthy referred to the extensive bilateral relations that exist between Canada and Indonesia, recalling in particular Canada's direct support to the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, and Canada's significant development assistance programs over the years, including financial support to previous rounds of the All Inclusive Intra-East Timorese Dialogue.

The Centre for Canadian Foreign Policy Development this week hosted a roundtable on East Timor to examine the current political, social and economic context, and to look at ways in which Canada might assist East Timor in a peaceful transition. The roundtable was attended by both Canadian non-governmental organizations and representatives from the East Timorese community.

"There have been important democratization efforts by the Indonesian government over recent months, along with progress toward stabilizing the economy," Mr. Axworthy said. "The impact of the financial and economic difficulties of the past 18 months have been substantial for the Indonesian people. I wish to underline Canada's intention to continue to help in both the political and economic realms."

East Timor, with a population of 800 000, is a former colony of Portugal. It was annexed as the 27th province of Indonesia in 1976. Canada is the third-largest donor in East Timor, with $1.1 million in aid provided each year.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Debora Brown Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (613) 995-1851

Naseem Nuraney

Office of the Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) (613) 995-1852

Media Relations Office Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (613) 995-1874

© Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 1999. All rights reserved.


For more information on Parliamentarians for East Timor, Please Contact:

Sharon Scharfe, International Secretariat, PARLIAMENTARIANS FOR EAST TIMOR Suite 116, 5929-L Jeanne D'Arc Blvd., Orleans, ON K1C 7K2 CANADA Fax: 1-613-834-2021 E-Mail: pet@web.net

"... where there are profits to be defended, law, justice, freedom, democracy and peace are the victims." -- Xanana Gusmao, Jailed Leader of East Timor in Preface to "Complicity: Human Rights and Canadian Foreign Policy -- the Case of East Timor" (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1996).

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