Subject: AFP: Horta sees improving ties with Indonesia

Agence France Presse

June 6, 2002 Thursday

East Timor sees improving ties with Indonesia

MADRID, June 6

East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta on Thursday said he was confident that relations between the newly-independent state and former ruler, Indonesia, were improving and that they would soon open embassies in each other's capitals.

"It is a very complex relationship between us and Indonesia but with political goodwill in Jakarta, and on our side as well, we think we can overcome all of these difficulties that naturally occur between neighbours and above all, given our very recent history," Horta told journalists during a press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique.

The Nobel Peace prize winner said both East Timor and Indonesia would open embassies in each other's respective capitals.

Horta also said Indonesia would support East Timor joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) whose members include Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

"We have not yet presented a formal request for ASEAN membership but our government has decided that it is a priority for our country and Indonesia has declared it will support our bid," he said.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year in defiance of most of the world.

It spent millions of dollars on infrastructure during its 24-year rule, which also cost at least 100,000 East Timorese lives.

After East Timorese voted in August 1999 for independence, pro-Jakarta local militias -- organised by senior Indonesian security officials -- embarked on a "scorched earth" campaign in which whole towns were destroyed.

Pique said relations between Dili and Jakarta represented "an exemplary and spectacular case of reconciliation."

consequences, we are facing a situation that could have been difficult," he said.

But Pique said this had been avoided given the "positive and constructive attitude on the part of both Timorese authorities and Indonesia, and in particular, the Indonesian president."


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