Subject: East Timor, Indonesia to sign border agreement

East Timor, Indonesia to sign border agreement

DILI, East Timor, June 21 (AP): East Timor and Indonesia are set to sign a preliminary border agreement at an upcoming ministerial meeting of Southeast Asian nations, five years after the two nations underwent a violent separation.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Dili, the capital of East Timor, said Monday that the two sides would meet in Jakarta from June 22-24 to hammer out final details of the border pact and then would sign it on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in theIndonesian capital from June 29-30.

"This shows the level of trust, and cooperation as well as the friendly atmosphere created by both sides," Nelson Santos, secretary general of East Timor's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and ruled it with an iron fist until 1999, when the province's people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN referendum.

The Indonesian military and its proxy militias responded to the vote by killing 1,500 people and destroying much of the country's infrastructure.

But relations began improving even before East Timor became independent in May 2001. Tens of thousands of refugees have returned home, militias have largely been marginalized, and trade between the two countries is on the rise.

Only about 10 percent of the frontier between the two nations remains unmarked, Santos said.

The demarcation illustrates the steady improvement in relations between East Timor and its former occupier in recent years. It is expected to improve security and help reduce rampant smuggling between East Timor and Indonesian-held West Timor.

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