Subject: Academics to discuss West Pacific Forum proposal in Jakarta

Agence France Presse April 20, 2001

Academics to discuss West Pacific Forum proposal


Academics from Pacific countries will discuss the viability of a West Pacific Forum (WFP) at a meeting in Jakarta in June, Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab said Friday.

"They will give recommendations whether this is urgent or premature," Sihab told journalists on the sidelines of a seminar.

The idea of the forum, which would group Australia, East Timor, Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Gunea and several other Pacific island states has received a cool reception from the Association of South East Asian nations (ASEAN) of which Indonesia is a founding member.

Shihab gave no further details of the June meeting, other than to say that it would "not be governmental, but a gathering of intellectuals who will (submit) their recommendations to be considered by their governments later on."

Indonesia's support for the forum idea, he said, was part of its effort to "embrace the Pacific islands and bring them closer to us."

The WPF was first mooted by Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid in the aftermath of East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Jose Ramos Horta, foreign minister in the East Timor transitional cabinet, has said Dili would join the WFP but not at the expense of its efforts to gain ASEAN membership.

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