NEW YORK, 5 MAY 1999
TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, Mr. KOFI ANNAN, FOREIGN MINISTER OF INDONESIA, Mr. ALI ALATAS, FOREIGN MINISTER OF PORTUGAL, Mr. JAIME GAMA, AND AMBASSADOR JAMSHEED K.A. MARKER, AT UN HEADQUARTERS
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I notice we have a full room this afternoon, and I wonder why.
This is a historic moment. I am delighted to tell you that we have just signed the three agreements on East Timor, as you saw, between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of Portugal. There is a basic agreement and two supplementary ones: one covering the security arrangements for the peaceful implementation of the popular consultation and the other the modalities for this consultation.
As they have done throughout the negotiations, my good friends Ali Alatas and Jaime Gama have shown an exemplary spirit of cooperation and statesmanship. I am very grateful to both of them, as I believe the whole international community should be, and in particular the people of East Timor itself.
We are now moving immediately on the next phase. The United Nations staff are already on their way to the region to begin preparing for the popular consultation. All of us are determined to ensure that it is free, fair and thorough. If we are to fulfil that pledge, the United Nations must be able to work freely and in an atmosphere of security. Security in East Timor is the responsibility of the Indonesian Government. I welcome the assurances given by President Habibie that his Government will fulfil effectively its responsibility for law and order and the protection of all civilians.
I am gravely concerned about the recent increase in violence in East Timor. I strongly urge all elements and political tendencies in East Timor to refrain from any resort to force and to cooperate with the United Nations in fulfilling its vital tasks. I cannot stress too strongly that the success of the process on which we have embarked depends on the ability of the United Nations to conduct its work in an atmosphere of calm and security. I hope and trust that the United Nations will receive the full cooperation of all concerned.
I should like once again to thank the two Foreign Ministers, and through them their Governments, for the excellent and constructive role they have played in bringing this long, drawn-out negotiation to such a promising conclusion. It is my earnest hope that today's signatures will open a new and more peaceful chapter in the history of this troubled territory.
Mr. ALATAS: I would like simply to echo your words, Mr. Secretary- General, and stress the importance of today. Now that we have signed the three agreements on East Timor, I think we can move forward towards the solution of a long-standing question - a question that has already brought a lot of sorrow and suffering to the East Timorese people, but which we hope, by 8 August, will move towards a solution, one way or another, at which time we will be offering the East Timorese people a choice: whether to have a special status within the Indonesian Republic, with wide-ranging autonomy, or whether they would not accept such a proposition, in which case we would take the necessary constitutional steps to go our separate ways in an honourable and peaceful way.
So, in one way or another we hope to settle the problem by that time. This agreement opens the door towards that solution. We are looking forward to working very closely with the United Nations in the implementation of these agreements. As you rightly said, Mr. Secretary-General, an advance team is already there and will be shortly followed by the rest of the team, which will be there doing the necessary things in preparation for the consultation process.
Once again, Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to record my Government's gratitude and deep appreciation to you and to the admirable team that has assisted you throughout these negotiations. I think it is indeed appropriate for me to say that without your intervention, without your assistance, Mr. Secretary-General, we would not have reached this stage at this point in our negotiations. Therefore, once again, Mr. Secretary-General, thank you very much for all your efforts.
Mr. GAMA: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General and Ambassador Jamsheed Marker and his collaborators for the work that has been done and which puts an end to long negotiations that started in 1983. I had at that time the opportunity to begin negotiations on this specific issue of East Timor with the then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and the former Indonesian Foreign Minister Mochtar.
We are now reaching a conclusion, and these agreements are very important ones because they express solid principles. First, that the East Timorese question can only be settled by a free and fair ballot of the East Timorese. Secondly, that this ballot will be conducted by the United Nations. Thirdly, that from now on the United Nations, through an appropriate mission, will be present in East Timor.
I would emphasize all this by citing what a Timorese leader, the symbol of the Timorese people, Mr. Xanana Gusmao, said about today. He said that this means that the way is open for an international mechanism that will put an end to an illegitimate situation of 23-and-a-half years in the territory of East Timor.
This is a turning point, a very important one. I will in a very special manner address my Indonesian colleague and say that all of us are now committed to having this agreement be the law and to abide by the spirit and the letter of what we have agreed.
I would also thank the international community for the support it is giving to this United Nations mission, participating in and contributing to this consultation mechanism. On behalf of the Portuguese Government I hereby give the Secretary-General the first contribution for the consultation, a cheque for $10 million.
(The Minister for Foreign Affairs handed the Secretary-General a $10 million check)
The SECRETARY-GENERAL (spoke in Portuguese): Thank you very much.
(spoke in English)
Jamsheed, join us. I think you all know chief negotiator Jamsheed. He has done a great job.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General and gentlemen, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association it is a pleasure to have you here for such a ceremony. Why, in your opinion, has the issue been resolved so peacefully?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me say that obviously, as you can see, we are all smiles today. We are all very happy that we brought the process this far and, as you say, in a very peaceful manner. But we have an important and crucial phase that we are embarking on as of today, and I hope that we will achieve this second phase in the same constructive manner with little or no violence, and that the people of East Timor will have the opportunity to express themselves freely, openly and fairly in this ballot.
QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Alatas. Although we did not have the opportunity to read the entire text of the agreement, according to your words it establishes that you are going to endeavour to disarm all of the parties. Can you now say to all of us, and give your word and your Government's, that you are prepared to do more than "endeavour to" - that you actually guarantee that your Government will thoroughly, completely and in a timely fashion disarm all civilian factions no matter which side they are on? And I would like Minister Gama's reaction to that and also the views of the Secretary-General.
Mr. ALATAS: Well, we have agreed that we should take the necessary steps in order to achieve disarmament, apart from what we have already been achieving now, and that is the laying down of arms and the cessation of hostilities. That has been achieved.
The achievement of disarmament, however, requires some further steps, some further efforts or endeavours, and that is precisely the spirit and the letter of what we have agreed. In other words, we are all agreed that we should move and achieve disarmament, but we are realistic enough to know that several steps still need to be taken, several efforts or endeavours still need to be taken in order to achieve disarmament. And it is certainly the desire and the determination of my Government to do so.
But as I explained to you, outside, before I came in this morning, disarmament requires the cooperation of all groups. It is not only the disarmament of the pro-integrationist group; it is also the disarmament of the pro-independence group, including the Falintil, and that requires some doing.
Mr. GAMA: It is an essential point of this agreement, of the principles we have agreed to, and now it will be essential if the United Nations is to carry out its mission that a security environment be respected, that freedoms will be achieved in the Territory. Because a free consultation cannot take place in an environment of pressure, intimidation, fear or killings.
We will strictly abide by what we have signed. The United Nations will too. And we hope that all the negative situations that have lasted up until now will no longer exist, [in order to promote] the credibility of the United Nations goal.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, could you give us some details on this memorandum that you will be giving to the Indonesian and the Portuguese sides concerning the United Nations requirements for a free and fair ballot, this disarming of the militias, the freedom to hold rallies, meetings, etc.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: The memorandum really tries to set out the sort of things that need to be done for the right climate to be created for us to be able to carry out the ballot in an atmosphere of security and peacefully. It also sets out certain suggestions and demands that will need to be met for us to be able to carry out our work. It is nothing more and it is nothing less.
QUESTION: The specific terms?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: It's a long list, and I prefer not to list them all.
QUESTION: Two United States Senators have just introduced a bill in Washington to cut off all military aid to Indonesia because of Indonesia's sponsorship of the death squads in East Timor right now. This is a question to each of you, but beginning with the Secretary-General. First, how can you say that Indonesia will be in charge of the security when it has been the perpetrator of the violence in East Timor for 23 years and killed about 200,000 Timorese? And secondly, what is going to be done about keeping the Indonesian military away from the Timorese when they are voting? And how many United Nations personnel will be brought in to protect the Timorese from the Indonesian military?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: First of all, let me be quite clear here. I think we have been engaged in this kind of operation and peacekeeping operations for a long time. We are also witnessing a situation even today, in Kosovo. In each of these situations, in each operation that we get engaged in, whether it is elections in Namibia or elsewhere, we deal with the authorities. We deal with those in control. We deal with those who are responsible for the territories. If we do not deal with the Indonesian authorities and ask them to exercise their responsibility for law and order, whom do you suggest we turn to do that? Can the United Nations send in a force to do that at this stage without the agreement of the Indonesian authorities? We have to be realistic.
Mr. MARKER: We are in the process of working that out now. We have carried out a number of exercises. It is a matter of getting in the personnel, getting them in time. It is a logistic problem of horrendous proportions, and we are working at it very hard, hoping that we will be able to succeed and eventually provide some sort of manual for a situation of this nature. But it is not possible for me to give any figures right now.
QUESTION: I would like to go back and try to clarify some of these disarmament issues. Are you saying that Indonesia is solely responsible for the disarmament? Or is there any United Nations role? Also, once you collect these weapons, what is going to happen to them? Are they going to be stored, or can you destroy them? It seems odd that it would be the responsibility of only the Indonesian Government. Is there a United Nations role?
Mr. MARKER: The United Nations will be assisting and working with the authorities on this exercise. We anticipate having sufficiently trained personnel to do that. We do not at the moment have any plans for collecting the arms and stockpiling them or anything like that. We are more concerned with the maintenance of law and order. If arms are not used, as I understand it, they are not quite the menace that they could be otherwise. The most important thing, as the Secretary-General and the two Ministers have said, is the creation of a situation of calm, and we would rather work towards that through persuasion, through talks, through meetings, through the commission, and set that climate. I am convinced that the people of East Timor have had enough of conflict. I am convinced that under the Secretary-General a United Nations presence there will provide a calming effect and assurances, and certainly an assurance of impartiality, which goes a long way towards removing suspicions, if not healing tensions.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: But I think we need to stress the fact that the maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of the Indonesian Government. I have discussed this also with President Habibie, and the Government has given us its word that it will do its utmost to ensure that we have law and order. The United Nations presence will monitor, it will help, it will assist, but we are not going to be responsible for that.
Secondly, you have to understand that when you talk of disarmament, you seem to be discussing it as a very easy process. It is one of the most difficult exercises to undertake in any situation, and so we should talk about these issues with a sense of realism, what is possible, what can be done. We are going to press for a secure environment, and the Government has indicated that it will work with us.
QUESTION: Have you received any commitments or any indications already from nations that they would be willing to participate in a force, and if so, would any of those nations also be carrying any sort of light arms of their own just in case the violence does in fact continue?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: We have had indications from Governments that they would want to participate, that they would want to send electoral observers, and at some point we will need some police monitors. United Nations police monitors normally do not carry weapons, and I do not think you have talked about allowing them to carry weapons. We would apply the United Nations standards.
QUESTION: Returning to the question of Indonesia being in charge of law and order, isn't that in contradiction with the decisions of the United Nations concerning the occupation of East Timor? I understand it is an act of realism, but, still, isn't that an act of faith rather than realism?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let's open things up: what would you suggest we do? I will be clear: I am open to suggestions. What do you suggest we should do to take care of the problem you have raised if we do not approach it in the manner we have suggested? I am open to suggestions. What is your idea?
QUESTION: Start by freeing Xanana, of course.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: That is an issue we have discussed, and I am sure that will come in time, I hope sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Since the Habibie Government might not be there even next year, what will happen if a newly elected Assembly does not agree with the reformulation of Mr. Habibie [inaudible]. Secondly, in East Timor there are 13 districts. What will happen if some districts are heavily pro-integration and some heavily anti-integration? That would pose a tremendous possibility of [inaudible].
Mr. GAMA: To answer the first question, as you know, international agreements are binding not on Governments, but on States, and for that reason any future Government in Indonesia is going to abide by this agreement.
Secondly, the balloting being conducted in a universal manner means that the results of the ballot are not necessarily going to show the results in each polling station, but in general, and so you cannot have that destabilizing effect.
QUESTION: The names of a few countries willing to provide monitors or some sort of support have been raised: United States, United Kingdom, Philippines, Australia, Japan. Have those countries made commitments, or are they merely giving indications that they will provide support or police monitors or some sort of assistance to this operation?
Mr. MARKER: We have so far had one cheque for $10 million, so that is already a start, and Australia has made commitments as well as a contribution. We have had assurances of contributions from other countries as well.
QUESTION: [inaudible] the United States [inaudible]?
Mr. MARKER: We are working on it, because they have their own procedures, but I hope, with the Secretary-General's permission, to go to Washington at some stage, talk to some people and ask them to put their money where their mouths used to be and get some concrete - which I am sure I will get. Knowing the feeling and knowing the views, I am confident that we will be able to raise - because, talking seriously now, there has been so much concern expressed over the issue of East Timor. There are no two views on it, there are no two views on the fact that the United Nations should proceed with this exercise. So I do not anticipate - one of the things we have to do is to make our own assessments, and without finding out exactly what the costing is, it is unfair to approach donors without being more specific, and we are working on that.
Mr. ALATAS: I just wanted to explain about the countries that were mentioned. Those were, of course, the suggestions made by our President for the Secretary-General to contemplate asking them to help in the effort. But, of course, it goes without saying that this does not in any way put the Secretary-General in a position where he cannot exercise his flexibility. It is up to the Secretary-General which countries he would like to ask for assistance or for cooperation in the operation. We in Indonesia would agree with that, but these are just some suggestions.
If I understand correctly, this is the last question, so therefore may I just conclude by saying a few words personally to my old friend Ambassador Jamsheed Marker and thanking him especially for what he has done. Without his patience, without his vast skills in negotiation, but especially without his empathy for both sides and their arguments, we would not have come as far as we have come. I would also like to say a special word to Ambassador Jamsheed Marker.
Mr. GAMA: I renew my thanks to the United Nations team - I recognize in this room Mr. Samuel and Mr. Vendrell. Ambassador Marker was an excellent chief negotiator and created all the conditions for getting this diplomatic accommodation. I also wish to thank the Secretary-General for the impulse he gave himself, abiding by principle regarding the dossier of East Timor. Without his commitment, without his endorsement of a clear task for the United Nations in the world today, we could not have concluded the agreement we have just signed.