Subject: KY: E. Timor OKs plan for joint border committee with Indonesia

E. Timor OKs plan for joint border committee with Indonesia

DILI, East Timor, Sept. 5 (Kyodo) -- By: Tim Johnson East Timor's transitional government has approved the setting up of a joint border committee with Indonesia that will work to demarcate their 172-kilometer border, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) said Tuesday.

The arrangement, negotiated between the two sides over recent months and finalized in July, creates a legal framework ''whereby all issues of mutual concern across the border between East Timor and Indonesia can be dealt with in a structured, coherent and transparent fashion,'' Barbara Reis told a press conference.

The arrangement was approved Monday by the UNTAET cabinet, which is composed of four East Timorese and four international ministers.

According to a statement issued after the cabinet meeting, the border committee is meant ''to remove the risk of cross-border misunderstandings on sensitive issues such as border security, demarcation and police cooperation, while encouraging close bilateral ties through cooperation on environment, health, and veterinary issues, among others.

U.N. officials said the arrangement reaffirms that the boundary between the two halves of Timor Island is governed by a border convention between the governments of the Netherlands and Portugal dated Oct. 1, 1904, and a subsequent arbitral award in 1914.

But the officials said actually demarcating the boundary will be somewhat problematic, as some of the markers will have been lost or moved over the years.

The committee will have various subcommittees, including those on border demarcation and regulation, the movement of people and goods, cross-border health and natural resource management.

It will also serve as the forum for negotiations on the UNTAET's request for a land transit corridor to link East Timor with the isolated Oecussi enclave on the northern coast of Indonesia's West Timor. Indonesia has expressed security concerns and countered with an offer of a coastal sea lane.

In addition, there has been an upsurge in infiltration by anti-independence East Timorese militias from across the border in recent months. The militias, who recently killed two U.N. peacekeepers, operate from refugee camps in West Timor, and Indonesian troops and police have failed to halt their activities.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and declared the former Portuguese colony its 27th province the following year.

A referendum on Aug. 30, 1999, organized by the United Nations, saw it split from Indonesian control after more than 24 years of occupation. Indonesia relinquished authority over the eastern half of the island to the U.N. the following October.

East Timor is due to become fully independent in the second half of 2001.

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