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Albright Statement on Voting in East Timor

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release August 12, 1999

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT

Washington, D.C.

August 12, 1999

Voting in East Timor

On August 30 the people of East Timor will have the chance to accept or reject autonomy -- an opportunity many thought could never be realized.

By allowing this process to go forward, the Government of Indonesia has demonstrated its renewed commitment to democracy -- and its determination to join the ranks of states that resolve disputes by force of law, not force of arms.

Formal campaigning begins on August 14. Already, more than 400,000 East Timorese have registered to vote, showing tremendous courage under difficult, emotionally-charged circumstances.

The United States is deeply concerned by the acts of violence and intimidation which have already marred the pre-campaign period. It is critical, both to ensure a fair vote and to preserve the credibility of Indonesia's own transition, that Jakarta meet its obligation to provide a secure environment and promote the disarmament of all paramilitary forces in East Timor.

Security concerns will not end when the votes are counted. The Government of Indonesia has repeatedly assured the United States and other nations that it will fulfill its responsibility to provide security immediately after August 30 -- regardless of the outcome. Indonesia is also finalizing an agreement with the United Nations to ensure that the valuable UN civil and military presence continues after August 30. The United States will do its part to make the UN presence a robust one.

Indonesian officials and anti-independence militia leaders have suggested in recent days that a vote for independence will result in extensive violence or even civil war. This is intimidation, or worse. It is unacceptable. I take this opportunity to remind all concerned, in the strongest possible terms, that they are obligated to respect the results of the referendum and provide genuine security for all East Timorese.

The return of widespread violence to East Timor would be a needless tragedy -- and would cast serious doubt on Indonesia's own democratic vocation. But an open, fair and peaceful vote, whatever the result, would be a triumph not just for East Timorese but for all Indonesians. It would provide a tremendous boost for Indonesia's own aspirations to respected membership in the international community. And it would be an important step toward renewing Indonesia's partnerships with the United States and other democratic nations.

The United States and our partners are doing all that we can to promote this outcome -- but the choice is Indonesia's to make.

ENDS

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