Subject: Cohen: Indon military's behavior "inexcusable and shameful"

Excerpt: [Cohen:] "We will not be able to restore normal relations until we see successful efforts to promote safety for the people of East Timor and allow the peace process to proceed," he said. Jakarta also must quickly investigate the military's role in the violence in East Timor and punish those responsible, he said, calling the military's behavior in East Timor "inexcusable and shameful."

Associated Press September 30, 1999

US Cohen Wary Of Indonesian Assurances On East Timor

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP)--Defense Secretary William Cohen got the verbal assurances he was looking for, but he said Thursday that Indonesia still must prove to a watching world that it will allow East Timor its independence.

"We will see," Cohen said after a series of meetings with Indonesia's top civilian and military leaders.

Cohen said the Indonesian government - which is at an important crossroads with the seating Friday of a new national assembly to appoint the next president - must do more than just permit East Timor the independence it has long sought. Indonesia must also show that it can subordinate its military to civilian control, investigate and punish those members of the military who colluded with pro-Indonesia militias in East Timor, and disarm the militias.

Cohen said he also stressed to Indonesian officials that they must cooperate fully with the Australian-led force that is trying to reestablish order in East Timor after weeks of militia violence triggered by an Aug. 30 vote for independence. And Cohen said the Indonesian army must assure U.N. access to East Timorese refugees in West Timor.

"Indonesia faces significant choices, decisions that are going to determine whether democracy succeeds or fails," the defense secretary told a news conference.

Asked whether Indonesia should put a civilian in the job of defense minister to solidify control of the military, Cohen said that would be an important act, but it was up to Indonesia.

Later Thursday, Cohen flew to Bangkok for talks Friday with Thai government and military officials about Indonesia. Thailand, with about 1,500 troops pledged to the peacekeeping mission, is the second biggest player in the East Timor effort. Cohen is scheduled to visit Singapore and the Philippines before returning to Washington on Tuesday.

Cohen accused the Indonesian military of "aiding and abetting" militia violence against civilians in East Timor. After meeting with Indonesian officials, he said they indicated they would not let the militias interfere with peacekeepers.

"They are committed to seeing the success of the peacekeeping mission," Cohen told reporters after talks with Gen. Wiranto, the chief of the Indonesian military, and President B.J. Habibie. He also met privately with human rights groups and Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's founder and expected to be the next president.

In brief remarks to American reporters, Wiranto said he had spoken to Cohen "like a friend," and that in the meeting with Habibie at the presidential palace, "We talked about how to maintain and enhance and develop the East Timor situation."

At a news conference later, Cohen said the U.S. is eager to restore normal ties to Indonesia, which it views as the key to long-term political and economic stability in Southeast Asia. Washington suspended military-to-military relations with Jakarta on Sept. 8 to protest the military's failure to control the violence in East Timor.

"We will not be able to restore normal relations until we see successful efforts to promote safety for the people of East Timor and allow the peace process to proceed," he said. Jakarta also must quickly investigate the military's role in the violence in East Timor and punish those responsible, he said, calling the military's behavior in East Timor "inexcusable and shameful."

Cohen issued a written statement praising the Indonesian military for its early support of the nation's transition to democracy, but said that "in recent months, elements in the military have aided and abetted violence in East Timor."

Wiranto acknowledged misbehavior by some elements of the military, Cohen said.


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