Subject: Indonesia, Portugal to reestablish diplomatic relations

Indonesia, Portugal to reestablish diplomatic relations

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 (AFP) - Portugal and Indonesia agreed here Saturday to step up bilateral contacts leading to the rapid reestablishment of diplomatic relations, according to a joint statement. Diplomatic sources said the two countries would likely reestablish diplomatic ties before the end of the year, healing a rift of nearly 25 years.

Foreign ministers Jaime Gama of Portugal and Alwi Shihab of Indonesia issued the statement here following the first high level talks between the two governments since the recent political change in Indonesia.

"The ministers agreed that it would be of benefit to both sides to intensify their bilateral contacts ... including the reestablishment of diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level," the joint statement said.

The diplomatic thaw follows the change in Indonesian government last month when Abdurrahman Wahid, a 59-year-old moderate Muslim intellectual, was elected president to replace B.J. Habibie, a leader dogged by crises and scandals.

Portugal severed diplomatic ties with Indonesia on December 7, 1975, following the Asian country's invasion of East Timor, then under Portuguese control. Jakarta, claiming that East Timor had been liberated, later annexed the territory, a move that failed to win international recognition.

East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to become independent from Indonesia in August.

During the meeting here, the ministers discussed current international issues, including the situation in East Timor and the priorities of the upcoming Portuguese presidency of the European Union stating January 1, the statement said.

"The ministers agreed fully that future peace and prosperity of East Timor relies not only on its full integration to its Asian region but also on the vital assistance of the international community," the statement said.

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