Subject: Timor sends message on Irish aid

Irish Times

Timor sends message on Irish aid

April 15, 2005 3:34pm

Europe Intelligence Wire

IRELAND: East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, left Ireland yesterday saying he felt reassured that Irish development commitment to his country "is for the long-term, over the next 10 or even 20 years".

Minister of State for Development Co-operation Conor Lenihan told him Ireland intended to deepen and enhance its commitment when it next reviews priority country strategy for East Timor. Dr Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace laureate, spoke with warmth of other meetings with Minister of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Micheal Martin and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The visitor came with a message "to our rich friends, including Ireland" not to think of reducing their aid in anticipation of oil revenues from 2007. East Timor, Ireland's only Asian priority country, has received over 18 million since its 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia.

Mr Lenihan said technical and financial help in health, education, and for East Timor's judiciary (which has hardly any judges) would be considered. "We will be approaching the legal profession to see how they can help," he said. He will also investigate formalising a relationship with Irish and Timorese universities. Ireland hoped to help and learn from its "very good relationship" with East Timor, he said.

East Timor last week signed an agreement with Indonesia clarifying 96 per cent of their mutual borders, as part of a reconciliation process. However Dr Ramos-Horta said East Timor needed a long period of domestic stability to execute development plans.

If Ireland, perhaps in partnership with former colonial power Portugal, decided to be "a strategic mentor" Timor could be transformed in 20 years by targeting specific areas, including information technology, he maintains.

Tough oil negotiations with Australia should be resolved next month. Afterwards several $100 million annual revenues can be expected. But he said Timor was determined to learn from others' mistakes and wanted to develop a strong non-oil sector through investment incentives.

East Timor's most sensitive issue, however, is about justice for past atrocities under Indonesia. Dr Ramos-Horta defended his government's Truth and Friendship process, which involves Indonesia, and Timor's refusal to press for an international tribunal. A tribunal would produce "a huge backlash" in Indonesia and East Timorese would be the ones to suffer. It would also undermine a growing Indonesian willingness to confront its past. He said: "Indonesia is changing."

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