|Subject: SMH: Clash on UN peacekeeping role
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:38:46 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo:
Clash on UN peacekeeping role
Sydney Morning Herald 23/04/99
Clash on UN peacekeeping role
By MARK RILEY, MICHAEL MILLETT and PETER COLE-ADAMS
Disagreement over whether a United Nations peacekeeping mission should be launched in East Timor for the planned autonomy vote has emerged as the major sticking point in historic talks this week on the territory's future.
The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas, and his Portuguese counterpart, Mr Jaime Gama, are scheduled to meet in New York this morning Australian time with the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, to finalise the details of the vote. In preliminary discussions in New York on Wednesday, the Portuguese delegation said it favoured a strong UN peacekeeping presence in East Timor to provide security for the planned vote.
Such a force would include a sizeable Australian military contingent, as well as police and soldiers from other UN member states. However, the Indonesians maintained that the question of security in the territory would be one solely for its military.
Canberra hopes UN civilian monitors will be on the ground in East Timor within weeks, but insists there are no plans for an international military presence just now.
Speaking in Tokyo last night the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, said the deployment of a peace-keeping force in East Timor was not an option at this stage.
The Indonesian President, Dr B.J. Habibie, had stressed that Indonesia did not want such a force, and the UN was not pushing such a proposal.
The role of a peacekeeping force was to assist in implementing a peace settlement, Mr Downer said. "In the case of East Timor, frankly, we don't have a peace settlement yet. Let us take it one step at a time."
In talks with the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Kuzo Obuchi, and other ministers, Mr Downer pressed for a major Japanese contribution to preparations for the autonomy vote.
While Mr Obuchi had given no commitment, Mr Downer was confident that Japan would provide assistance in a number of ways. These ranged from financial backing through to the possible contribution of civilians to any UN operation.
Mr Annan welcomed news of the peace accord signed in Dili on Wednesday to put an end to the violence that has left dozens of people killed.
In a statement he said he was "confident the implementation of such an agreement, both in spirit and on the ground, will be of paramount importance to the negotiations and the overall peace process".
However, UN officials cautioned that the accord would have to be adhered to by all parties, particularly the pro-Indonesian militia, to allow any level of hope of a peaceful transition for East Timor to either an autonomous Indonesian state or total independence.
The officials said there was a realisation that any agreement struck in the plush offices of the UN may be difficult to enforce on the streets of Dili. Mr Alatas will present Indonesia's modified proposal for autonomy during the meetings, revealing changes which are expected to significantly water down the level of freedom being offered.
Observers think the Portuguese will go along with a reduced package, believing it would be less attractive to the East Timorese and less likely to be supported at the planned vote. Portugal is preparing to launch a diplomatic offensive that would ensure a second ballot specifically on the issue of East Timor's independence if the autonomy vote is lost.
This would negate any backtracking by Indonesia on its pledge in January to allow an automatic transition to independence if the people opt against autonomy.
The Portuguese Ambassador to the UN, Mr Fernando Neves, said on Wednesday that he was confident this week's discussions would lead to a final agreement on the autonomy proposal. His Indonesian counterpart, Mr Nugruho Wisnumurti, said his Government had attempted all along to push for an agreement that "involves everyone".