Subject: JP: Ministers vow to resolve border issues quickly

Also RI-Timor Leste agree to complete border negotiation January 2008

October 30, 2007

Ministers vow to resolve border issues quickly

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Timor Leste Foreign Minister Zacharias da Costa and his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirayuda agreed in Jakarta on Monday to finalize border negotiations by January next year.

Hassan said Indonesia and Timor Leste had agreed on almost 97 percent of their border areas so far, but were still struggling to wrap up a comprehensive border treaty due to historical and traditional concerns.

"We need political intervention to be able to solve the border problems because some borders require more than just a legal approach. But we have agreed to finish the negotiations by January," he told a joint press briefing after the bilateral talks.

Indonesia and Timor Leste have been negotiating a border treaty to demarcate their territories since Timor Leste was granted independence from Indonesia through a UN-organized referendum in 1999.

However, traditional ethnic rights on one hand and borders established by the Portuguese and Dutch colonial administrations on the other have complicated negotiations.

"For instance, treaties made by the Portuguese and the Dutch ruled that some areas belonged to Timor Leste, but agreements at the ethnic level have left the territories on Indonesian side," Hassan said.

Hassan said the countries would immediately begin negotiating sea borders after concluding agreements on land borders.

Both ministers have also discussed how to simplify regulations for border trade, border crossings and the construction of roads connecting Oecusi in Timor Leste and Motae in the East Nusa Tenggara province.

Meanwhile, Da Costa said the fact his first international trip as foreign minister was to Indonesia proved that the current Timor Leste government values its relations with Indonesia.

"For us, after five years of independence, it's more important that we look forward. It also means we intend to solve outstanding issues that we still have with Indonesia by continuing dialog," he said.

Da Costa said senior officials from both countries would follow up the talks to discuss technical details.

"We will meet again prior to the visit of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao to Indonesia in January," he said.

Both Hassan and Da Costa said they wanted all outstanding issues to be settled before Xanana's visit.

Aside from border problems, the ministers also discussed cooperation in the areas of education and human resource training.

"We will train some Timor Leste diplomats and 15 forestry officials. Timor Leste has also asked us to grant visas to 3,500 students so they can study in Indonesia," Hassan said.

He said Indonesia would also continue to train Timor Leste police and military officers and work with Timor Leste authorities to eradicate corruption.

Both ministers said they hoped the joint Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship would produce credible results in its final report, to be completed in January after two years of investigations.

"Please be patient. We should not judge the commission's work before it completes its report," Hassan said.

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10/30/07 16:34

RI-Timor Leste agree to complete border negotiation January 2008

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian and Timor Leste governments have agreed to complete the border negotiation before Timor Leste`s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao visits Indonesia in January, 2008, a minister said.

Indonesia`s Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda made the remark to newsmen after accompanying President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who received Timor Leste`s Zacarias Albano Dan Costa here Tuesday.

The Indonesian and Timor Leste Foreign Affairs Ministries tried to complete the negotiation between now and January, 2008, in a series of meetings to deal with various preliminary agreements among others on border issues, he said.

He said the agreement on land border between Indonesia and Timor Leste had been completed by 97 percent.

"Only three percent remains and we are waiting for the completion of the document the border agreement," he said.

The minister pointed out the two sides admitted that the political situation in Timor Leste in the past 18 months was a factor causing a number of negotiations to cease.

"As Timor Leste was facing domestic problems like riots and restlessness ahead of general elections, the bilateral talks were suspended for almost one and a half years causing some agreements not to be followed up," he said.

Thus with the new government, Timor Leste has resumed administration and wished to continue what had been suspended.

"Yesterday we also talked about the time frame of PM Xanana`s visit in the middle of next January," he said.

Timor Leste`s foreign minister visited Jakarta early this week to talk about a number of topics with his Indonesian counterpart including those on PM Xanana`s planned visit, the RI-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship and border cooperation.

Timor Leste which was one an Indonesian province officially seceded from Indonesia in October, 1999, as a consequence of the pro-independence camp`s victory in the UN-organized popular consultation held on August 30, 1999.

The territory integrated into Indonesia in 1976 but the UN never recognized the integration process. (*)


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