Written Answers. - East Timor Conflict.

Tuesday, 30 March 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 502 No. 6

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  12.  Mrs. Owen  Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews   his views on the evolving situation in East Timor. [8867/99]


  55.  Mr. Broughan  Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews   if the Government will support the despatch of a UN peacekeeping force to East Timor in view of the continuing reports of acts of violence against the civilian population by Indonesian forces and Indonesian backed elements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8930/99]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 55 together.

I am encouraged by the results of the latest round of tripartite talks which have taken place in New York under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. We seem, at last, to be close to the point where the East Timorese people may be able to exercise freely their right to self-determination and I welcome therefore the progress that has been made at the diplomatic level.

At the same time, difficulties remain. It is reported that Indonesia will not accept a straightforward referendum process for consulting the East Timorese people because of the implications which this would have for ethnic minorities elsewhere who might wish to secede. Another difficulty arises from the presence of a pro-government militia force in East Timor which appears to have been provided with large amounts of weaponry by the Indonesian army. As a result of the activities of this militia, the risk of widespread communal violence is believed to have increased in recent weeks.

I urge tolerance and restraint by all sides as the best means of ensuring the people of East Timor can look forward to a peaceful and harmonious future. In this respect, I believe that the release from house arrest of the resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, and the establishment of a UN presence in Dili would contribute greatly to advancing the current peace process. I also believe that the informal militia groups which have been set up in East Timor should be disarmed. In this context, the UN Security Council may wish to consider the deployment of a peacekeeping force if the necessary conditions for this, including the agreement of the Indonesian authorities, can be met.

Deputies will be aware that I am planning to make a short visit myself to Jakarta and East Timor in the middle of next month. While there I hope to have the opportunity to express my solidarity with those who suffered oppression for so long and to impress upon everyone I meet the necessity of avoiding violence at all costs.

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