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AUS: Operations Stabilise - Daily Briefing 21/9/99

Update Monday 21th September, 1999


OPENING REMARKS FOR DAILY MEDIA BRIEFING
By the Defence Spokesperson, Colonel Duncan Lewis
21SEP99


•As you know, Australia is leading and making an major contribution to a multinational force tasked with:
•restoring peace and security in East Timor •protecting and supporting UNAMET to carry out its tasks •facilitating humanitarian assistance operations
•This mission is enormously important for Australia's future security.
•The humanitarian task to be undertaken is clear and a high priority. •However, the environment of peace and stability in our region is critical to all our futures.
•I would like to emphasise that our work in East Timor is not just about being a good international citizen
•It is very much in our interest to have a stable East Timor and a stable Indonesia. •Indonesia is a country of enormous strategic importance to Australia. For the sake of our long term security we must always work hard to deal with Indonesia in a constructive way and encourage its moves towards democracy.
•The task of INTERFET will be a difficult and demanding one. We will be working hard with our multinational partners and the legitimate institutions in East Timor to minimise the risks involved so East Timor can transition to the independent state its people voted for. •OPERATION STABILISE is only the first step. We are already working with the UN to facilitate the transition to the planned UN peacekeeping mission, UNAMET Phase III.

 

COALITION

•We are extremely pleased with the offers of our international partners to contribute to this important mission, especially our South East Asian partners, including, of course, the cooperation of Indonesia. •We have now received firm commitments from 11 countries. These are the Philippines, UK, US, Singapore, Thailand, NZ, Italy, France, Canada, Malaysia and Brazil. •Nine other countries have indicated a willingness to contribute, but actual commitments have not been agreed. These are Fiji, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Mozambique, Spain, Ireland, Norway and Denmark. •Those still considering making offers include Germany, Chile, Sweden, Norway, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Nepal, Brunei, South Africa, Kenya, Hungary, and Bangladesh.

 

OPERATIONS OVER THE LAST 30HRS

•Map orientation •Situation in Dili •INTERFET forces deployed to East Timor yesterday, by aircraft to Dili from Darwin, Townsville an Tindal, with some arriving by sea, and now number about 2,300 •Yesterday 33 flights of C-130 aircraft were made. Aircraft from air forces of Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand were involved. Some 1500 troops were flown in. •HMAShips Jervis Bay and Tobruk docked in Dili at 7am this morning and commenced discharging personnel and cargo about 10am - the Jervis Bay carried an additional 500 troops and Tobruk carried heavy equipment and light armoured vehicles. •The first five aircraft to land in Dili carried special forces and the lead elements of the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade. •They secured the airport and established coordination with TNI. •A security force based on the 2nd Battalion RAR (part of 3 Brigade) then deployed to secure and clear the port of Dili for the arrival of Royal Australian Navy vessels this morning. •The company of British Ghurkas have moved to secure the UNAMET compound. •12 Blackhawk helicopters have just arrived in Dili to support future operations. •The first task for INTERFET is to secure Dili as a support base for operations throughout the territory of East Timor. •Major General Cosgrove has indicated that as soon as possible troops will start to move beyond the immediate environs of Dili. •The countries that now have forces or liasion teams deployed either in Australia or East Timor include Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, France, United States and United Kingdom •A further 500 troops will be arriving in Dili today by air using Australian, French, New Zealand and US aircraft. •There has been no resistance to the arrival of INTERFET forces, and Commander INTERFET, General Peter Cosgrove is pleased that the operation is going smoothly as planned, particularly with TNI's continued very good cooperation. We note the value of the meeting on Sunday between Major General Cosgrove and Major General Kiki Syahnakri. •You may be aware that in Dili yesterday a militia member was disarmed by Australian troops, and another militia member was arrested for brandishing a pistol during the evening •By the end of the second 24 hours of this operation we expect to have about 3000 troops in Dili and during the next several weeks the Australian contingent can be expected to swell to about 4500, with a total coalition force of around 7000 as international troops become available.

 

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

•While the responsibility for the delivery of humanitarian assistance rests with humanitarian agencies, INTERFET has the task to facilitate the delivery of that assistance. •A reconnaissance of the town of Barai to the south of Dili is underway to assess the humanitarian assistance required there. •Air drops of food and supplies have been made to six locations over the past few days. Three further drops are planned for tomorrow using Australian and French aircraft. •The urgency of the humanitarian task is clear, but it can not proceed to the full extent necessary without peace and security. This underpins it all.

 

RISKS

•The relatively smooth deployment of the multinational force in Dili should not lull us into a false sense of security. We should not underestimate the dangers of this operation. •However, our servicemen and women deployed in East Timor have been given adequate legal authority to defend themselves, and to take whatever action is necessary to implement the UN mandate. They are well trained, well led and well equipped. •Furthermore, the risks cannot be allowed to stand in the way of our resolve to help the people of East Timor. •While the ADF is not a large force by world standards, it is highly respected for its professionalism and its strong character of fairness, which has been proven by its good operational record.

 

CONCLUSION

•Let me conclude by reiterating that this operation by the international community is very important to Australia's security and the long term peace and stability of the Asia/Pacific region. •Its success will rely on all parties to seek a long term and peaceful solution for the people of East Timor, as well as the continued support of the Australian community for the important work that the Australian Defence Force has undertaken to make a difference and shape a better world. •I am happy to take any questions.

Ends

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