|Subject: AGE: Timor: We snub offer to send in the Marines
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 1999 09:49:20 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
The Age Sunday, August 31, 1999
Timor: We snub offer to send in the Marines
By PAUL DALEY - FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT CANBERRA
Australia has rejected advances from the United States to cooperate on peacekeeping plans for strife-torn East Timor.
The diplomatic snub comes as Washington considers whether to send the Marines into East Timor if a United Nations peacekeeping force is needed.
East Timor residents will vote at the end of this month on whether they want to break away from Indonesia. They are expected to vote in favor of independence, which observers fear may spark renewed violence by pro-Indonesian militia groups.
The Sunday Age believes that the Federal Government has ordered senior Australian defence strategists to reject an invitation to discuss strategy and intelligence planning for East Timor at US Pacific military headquarters in Honolulu.
During preliminary talks in recent weeks, American defence strategists said the US was considering the commitment of Marines to a UN peacekeeping or ``peace-making'' force, deployable before or after the 30August ballot.
Defence and diplomatic sources told The Sunday Age that America made clear it expected Australia to lead any East Timor peacekeeping force that included US Marines.
After lengthy, top-level consideration, including senior Federal Government figures, Australian defence chiefs and leading diplomats rejected the US offer.
They told the Americans that any discussion of possible UN peacekeeping involving the Marine Corps was ``premature'' and could be ``damaging'' to bilateral relations between Australia and Indonesia.
It is believed this message was also conveyed by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dr Ashton Calvert, during a recent meeting in the United States with the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Mr Stanley Roth.
Sources said Dr Calvert and Mr Roth disagreed on the circumstances under which an international force should be sent to East Timor.
Mr Roth said it was desirable for peacekeeping - whether or not it involved US Marines - to take place sooner rather than later while Dr Calvert took a more conservative approach. Sources told The Sunday Age that despite public perceptions to the contrary, the US appears willing to play a central, if not leading, role in peace monitoring or ``peace making'' - the separation of warring parties - in East Timor.
As human rights in the troubled Indonesian province have become an increasing preoccupation among prominent congressmen and senators, America has expressed increased pessimism about the aftermath of the forthcoming vote.
``The US has listened to arguments that it is premature for the UN to consider troops (for East Timor) before the vote. But there is a view amongst the influential (in the US) that after the vote ... (could) be leaving it too late,'' a diplomatic source explained.
Australia's decision to snub the US military's offer shows that, despite significant international pressure, Australia remains fiercely intent on protecting its bilateral relationship with Indonesia while conducting its own contingency planning for East Timor peacekeeping.
Australian military strategists say there is a high likelihood that the UN will ask Australia to make a significant contribution to a Timor force if significant violence accompanies a pro-independence vote.
Under Australia's contingency planning, perhaps 2000 Australian and New Zealand military experts would form the nucleus of a peacekeeping force, the bulk of whose ground troops would come from Pacific and Asian nations such as Fiji, Malaysia and Thailand.
Australia believes Indonesia would be more likely to accept ground troops from countries considered more ``culturally akin'' to Indonesia. Jakarta has consistently rejected the idea of accepting foreign, armed troops in East Timor. Australia believes this to be a legacy of Indonesia's colonial past.
Under Australian military contingencies, Australia would lead a UN force for East Timor, deployable only if significant violence accompanies a result of the forthcoming ballot.
The Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, yesterday praised Indonesian President B.J.Habibie, telling a Liberal Party state conference in Perth that the rest of the world needed to follow Australia's example and applaud him.
``I think Dr Habibie deserves a lot more credit for what he's done than he has received,'' he said. ``You've got to remember that Habibie has presided over the transition of Indonesia to something that approximates democracy.''
The Foreign Minister, Mr Alexander Downer, said in Dili that Australia was taking a neutral position on the vote. ``At this sensitive time it makes sense for us to be neutral and let the (East Timorese) make up their own minds.'' He also appealed to the East Timorese not to target ``foreign nationals trying to help East Timor through this extremely ... difficult time''.
02:32 a.m. Aug 01, 1999 Eastern
U.S. May Offer Marines To U.N. For E.Timor - Paper
CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) - The United States is considering sending Marines to serve as U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor, an Australian newspaper said Sunday.
The Sunday Age newspaper quoted U.S. defense strategists as saying Washington had considered the commitment of Marines to a U.N. peacekeeping force to be deployed before or after East Timor votes on whether to break from Indonesia on August 30.
``(Australian) defense and diplomatic sources told The Sunday Age that America made it clear it expected Australia to lead any East Timor peacekeeping force that included Marines,'' the newspaper said.
The United Nations is reported to be developing plans for a four-year interim administration to run East Timor if it votes for independence.
The newspaper said senior Australian government officials, defense chiefs and leading diplomats had rejected the U.S. offer, saying it was too premature and would damage bilateral relations with Indonesia.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said U.S. offers of assistance had not included using the Marines in a peacekeeping force.
``They have not...ever made that offer to me,'' he told Channel Nine television. ``There have been a range of contingencies discussed. But whether the U.S. would participate in that peacekeeping force or not, I don't know.''
Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony and home to 800,000 people, in 1975 and annexed it the next year, a move not recognized by the United Nations.
The territory has chafed under Indonesia's often brutal rule ever since.