Subject: AFP: East Timorese urged to take the path of peace in reconciliation talks
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 1999 09:02:00 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

East Timorese urged to take the path of peace in reconciliation talks

JAKARTA, June 28 (AFP) - Rival pro- and anti-independence factions Monday opened a new round of talks here with calls for an end to the violence and bloodshed in East Timor ahead of a self-determination vote.

Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, opening the second phase of the church-organized "Dare II dialogue and reconciliation conference," said it was the church's work to free the East Timorese from decades of conflict.

"It is the task of the church, indeed its obligation to release its children from the grip of ceaseless conflict that now enslaves them," Belo said.

He was speaking of the 23 years of war since Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, during which an estimated 200,000 East Timorese died at the hands of the army and of disease and starvation.

Belo was one of seven speakers launching the three-day session at an airport hotel in Jakarta before it was closed to the press.

The other speakers -- speaking in English, Indonesian, Tetun and Portuguese -- included the Papal Nuncio, Enzo Fratino, UN representative Tamrat Samuel, the Indonesian government's Thomas Aquino Samudra (eds: correct), Lisbon envoy Ana Gomes, as well as representatives from both sides.

Speaking in Portuguese, jailed leader Xanana Gusmao, said although the first steps were difficult, it was the responsibility of the delegates to reach a reconciliation in East Timor.

"The most difficult step has been taken -- that of the acceptance of the need for dialogue as the means of reaching a better understanding of one another's ideas, of putting an end to apprehension and of rejecting violence," Gusmao said.

He also called on all East Timorese "to break down once and for all, the barriers constructed between us."

His pro-Indonesian counterpart Fransico Xavier Lopes da Cruz said the entire East Timorese people "are anxious that we reach an understanding and that we are capable of standing united for peace."

Samuel called the meeting "a historic moment, full of opportunities," but also warned that like all similar moments, it was "fraught with dangers and pitfalls.

He said the challenge facing the delegates was to agree on a system for durable and peaceful coexistence for the opposing forces "in which every East Timorese will have a state and which every East Timorese will have a reason to defend."

"Difficult decisions" and "bitter concessions" would be needed, he warned.

Gomes indentified the main challenge as helping to dissipate fears over the personal future of East Timorese.

"Make it understood that there will be a place for everybody in East Timor," after the UN-held ballot in East Timor, Gomes said.

The East Timorese will vote in August on whether to accept autonomy under Indonesia or push for independence.

"Through this gathering it has been announced to the world, that peace is possible," Fratino said, exhorting the participants to "try to be united, try to be tolerant, to be patient, to be of service."

Attending the conference were some 60 delegates -- 30 from each side -- including Belo's co-Nobel laureate, exiled independence crusader Jose Ramos Horta, who flew into Indonesia Saturday for the first time in 23 years.

The first session, held in the same hotel Friday and Saturday, involved only representatives from East Timor, without East Timorese leaders living in exile.

Gusmao, serving a 20-year sentence for armed rebellion, was given permission by Indonesian legal and prison authorities to leave his jail house for the conference.

East Timor's 800,000 people are to take part in a UN-conducted vote in August that followed Jakarta's hint in January it was willing to free the territory it annexed in 1976 if its offer of autonomy was rejected.

Violence between the two factions has since escalated. Earlier this month UN Secretary General Kofi Annan ordered a two-week delay on ballot until the end of August, citing logistical problems as well as the violence and intimidation by Indonesian army-backed militia.

Annan brokered the May agreement between Portugal and Indonesia to hold the vote in August, provided conditions on the ground enable it to be free and fair.

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