Subject: US confident of resumption of full military ties with Indonesia

also: U.S. lauds progress of Indonesian military reform; and US congratulates Indonesia on reaching draft peace deal with rebels in Aceh province

US confident of resumption of full military ties with Indonesia

JAKARTA, August 3 (AFP) -- A senior US defense official on Wednesday expressed optimism that Washington would restore full military cooperation with Indonesia, citing the country's moves towards democracy.

Cooperation between their armed forces in the aftermath of last year's tsunami and access given to FBI agents investigating the 2001 killings of two US citizens in Papua province were also "clear indicators" of Indonesia's recent progress, said Brigadier General John Allen.

"They are very clear indicators of the directions in which we can go together as two nations," said Allen, a director for Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US defense department.

"We think that we can work with the Congress to continue to extend and facilitate this relationship," he said in Jakarta at the end of a two-day US-Indonesia security dialogue.

Washington imposed restrictions on contacts after the Indonesian military massacred pro-independence protesters in East Timor in November 1991.

The restrictions were further tightened in 1999 after militias backed by the Indonesian army killed about 1,400 people before and after East Timor voted for independence from Jakarta.

The US is keen to restore full military ties with the world's largest Muslim-populated nation to assist its global "war on terror".

Washington eased an embargo on the supply of US military hardware to help boost relief efforts in Indonesia's Aceh province, the region hardest hit by the December 2004 tsunami.

In February the United States decided to resume training members of the Indonesian armed forces.

Allen said Washington was "very encouraged" by the formation of a joint commission of truth and friendship by East Timor and Indonesia as a means of reconciliation.

"So as we continue in the process of accountability with regard to Timor, as evidenced by the commission of truth and friendship ... we are very optimistic with the future," he said.


U.S. lauds progress of Indonesian military reform

Jakarta, August 3 (DPA) -- A senior U.S. defence official on Wednesday lauded the progress of reform in the Indonesian armed forces as the two country's administrations strive for closer military ties.

While U.S. Defense Department's Director for Asian and Pacific Affairs, Brigadier General John Allen, refused to say if he thought enough reform or progress had been done with respect to human rights, he praised the "many important advances" of Indonesia and the military in recent years and said it would help to move relations forward despite the reluctance of some U.S. lawmakers.

Allen cited the military's cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in investigating the murder of two U.S. school teachers in Papua, the recent draft peace accord signed over Aceh, and the Indonesian and East Timorese governments' cooperation on a commission investigating alleged rights abuses as evidence of the progress.

"We're very encouraged by all these many developments and taken together, we think we can work with the Congress to continue to expand and facilitate this relationship," Allen said at the end of a two-day dialogue on security and defence issues, including counterterrorism and U.S.-Indonesian military relations.

"As we continue in the process of accountability with regards to Timor, as evidenced by the commission on truth and friendship, and other important areas of cooperation, we're very optimistic for the future," Allen said.

Rights experts and diplomats say bringing justice to victims of alleged abuses around East Timor's vote for independence is one of the most outstanding human rights issues still blocking a further warming of relations between the U.S. and Indonesian armed forces.

The United Nations estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed in 1999 when gangs of pro-Jakarta militias, widely believed to have been supported by members of the Indonesian security forces, went on a rampage after the independence referendum.

Indonesia and East Timor have both rejected a call in a United Nations report for an international tribunal to try Indonesian and militia leaders blamed for the bloody 1999 rampage in the former Indonesian territory, with East Timorese leaders fearing it might damage relations.

After intense international pressure, Indonesia set up its own ad-hoc human rights tribunal. Out of 18 suspects tried, 12 were acquitted, five had their convictions overturned on appeal and the final case is still pending.

Human rights activists have described the Indonesian process as a sham, and have called for a full international tribunal.

The United States has taken steps in recent months to re-establish military relations with Indonesia, which were suspended in the early 1990s over U.S. concerns of human-rights violations in the country.

In February, the United States restarted International Military Education and Training programmes, which include personnel exchanges, but the full normalization of military ties, including weapons sales, still faces opposition from U.S. lawmakers.


US congratulates Indonesia on reaching draft peace deal with rebels in Aceh province

JAKARTA, August 3 (AP) -- The United States congratulated Indonesia Wednesday for reaching a draft peace deal with rebels in Aceh province, and said the accord would make it easier for Washington to resume frozen military-to-military ties with Jakarta.

The U.S. Congress severed most military links with Indonesia in 1999 after military-led violence in the former Indonesian province of East Timor led to the deaths of 1,500 people.

Rights groups have urged Washington not to restore ties because of the army's continuing record of abuses, especially in Aceh province.

The government and Acehnese rebels plan to sign an accord to end the 29-year-old war in Aceh on Aug. 15 after agreeing to the deal at talks last month in Helsinki, Finland.

"Our congratulations go to the government and president and vice president on what appears to be an agreement in respect to Aceh," said Brig. Gen. John Allen, director for Asian and Pacific affairs at the U.S. Defense Department.

Allen said the deal, along with the internal reforms within the Indonesian military and cooperation in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami, "were important indications for the future" restoration of ties.

"We are very encouraged by all these developments in Indonesia," Allen told reporters after two days of meetings between Indonesian and U.S. defense officials aimed at strengthening their relationship.

The Bush administration is lobbying Congress to drop the ban, arguing Washington should be strengthening its ties to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation and a key battleground in the war on terror.

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