NEW YORK, 18 MAY 2001
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA, AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL (the situation on East Timor)
Portugal supports fully the statement delivered by Ambassador Pierre Schori, of Sweden, on behalf of the European Union.
East Timor has been a success story for the United Nations. But our collective task is yet to be completed. It is imperative that this Council and the international community do not fail in providing the necessary means the United Nations needs to perform its duty in East Timor.
In fact, the coming months will be crucial for the successful transition of East Timor to independence. Portugal is fully committed to participating in this process. We consider also that it is of vital importance that the Security Council maintains its strong interest and engagement in the birth of this new Member State of the United Nations.
Portugal appreciates the work that the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor has been undertaking in implementing its very complex and comprehensive mandate. We commend the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, for the progress already achieved in areas as diverse as ensuring security, establishing a civil administration and rehabilitating the basic services to the population.
We also welcome the latest developments in the preparation for the election of the Constituent Assembly, including the efforts in the area of civic and voter education, as well as the promotion of conditions for the participation of women in the political process. We see this election as the first major step on the way to political independence. Its success in the long run will depend as much on the capacity of the internal political forces to make democracy and good governance the driving force behind their actions, as on the support the international community will be able to provide to the East Timorese government structures.
Portugal agrees with the approach taken in the report of the Secretary-General regarding the planning for the future presence of the United Nations in East Timor. We note the establishment, in Dili, of a working group for post-UNTAET planning. Indeed, a detailed evaluation of the needs of East Timor after independence is urgently required. We believe that the focus of this exercise must be kept on the ground, where the input of the Timorese is best taken into account. Needless to say, any plans and strategies that are defined without the involvement and the views of the Timorese would be impossible to implement successfully. In this regard, I am pleased that the Council was able to hear today two key Timorese representatives, Mr. Xanana Gusmão and Mr. Ramos Horta. Let me thank you, Mr. President, for making this possible.
We noted also with keen interest the remarks of the Secretary-General on the security situation in East Timor, in particular those highlighting the continued risks and uncertainties. Portugal concurs with the Secretary-Generals assertion that it would be prudent to maintain the military component of UNTAET in its present form until the East Timorese government has established itself. Further, we believe strongly that any subsequent change must only be made on the basis of a detailed assessment of the security situation on the ground. In this context, we must keep in mind that the mandate the Security Council gave to UNTAET was to prepare East Timor for independence. The election of a constituent assembly is only one step in that process - it is not an end in itself and it is not the end goal of the United Nations presence in East Timor.
Let me also stress the importance of a swift and comprehensive solution to the situation of the East Timorese refugees in West Timor, as well as the continued militia activity in that area. We fully share the views expressed by the European Union on this question and on the need to ensure that all those responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law be brought to justice.
Substantial engagement and support of the international community will still be needed in East Timor after independence. It is fundamental to ensure the continuity of UNTAETs work in all areas. The Secretary-General has rightfully stated in his recent report entitled "No Exit Without Strategy", referring to East Timor, that "in order to ensure that independence is successful and viable, a follow on peace keeping mission will be required to support the new State". We look forward to the recommendations of the Secretary-General on what this follow on mission may look like and what the needs will be to support it. These recommendations should include a realistic assessment of the capacity of any implementing partner to carry out tasks that the Security Council has entrusted to UNTAET.
East Timor is a unique case. Unique because of the circumstances that originated the United Nations presence in the territory. And unique because of the complex and multidimensional, yet clear and achievable, mandate this Council has given to UNTAET. Our collective goal is to ensure that East Timor becomes a viable, independent and democratic state. We cannot waiver in this endeavour.