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Albright with Gusmao (Timor) [corrected]

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
And East Timorese Independence Leader Xanana Gusmao
Remarks Following Meeting
New York, New York, September 26, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good evening, I have just had the opportunity to meet here in New York with East Timorese leader, "Xanana" Gusmao and Dr. Ramos Horta, two men I respect deeply for their commitment to reconciliation and democracy. And I must say I am especially pleased to be able to greet Mr. Gusmao for the first time as a free man. We met when I was in Jakarta and I worried about him a lot and now I am very pleased to have him here by my side.

During our meetings, we discussed the security and humanitarian situation in both East Timor and West Timor. We agreed that the continuing humanitarian crisis in East Timor and the growing tragedy of East Timorese refugees in West Timor are of acute concern. They demand immediate attention.

It was for this reason that, last week, I asked Julia Taft, our Assistant Secretary for Refugees, Population and Migration to go to the region to get a first-hand perspective of the severity of the situation on the ground there. She spent a total of six days in Jakarta, West Timor, and East Timor, and what she has reported to me is terribly troubling.

While Assistant Secretary Taft received excellent cooperation from civilian authorities, she reported that the situation on the ground in West Timor is appalling. She personally witnessed a heavy militia presence within camps housing East Timorese displaced persons, and observed clear incidences of collusion between the Indonesian military and militia groups. This collusion has created an extremely dangerous situation, that makes it impossible for international humanitarian organizations to operate safely and effectively in West Timor at this time.

President Habibie has assured the international community that all displaced persons in West Timor would be protected, humanely cared for, and allowed to return safely to East Timor. I call on the Government of Indonesia to immediately take steps to make good on this pledge, to stop the collusion between the Indonesian military and the militias, and to disarm the militias. The militias must not be permitted to either threaten displaced persons or to wage an insurgency campaign against East Timor.

I further call on the Indonesian government to ensure that all displaced persons wishing to return to East Timor are able to do so. I am particularly troubled by credible reports that East Timorese are being forcibly relocated from West Timor to other locations in Indonesia rather than being allowed to return home. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of international standards of human rights.

Finally, I call on the Government of Indonesia to step up cooperation with the United Nations and with INTERFET, in order to restore order in East Timor and prevent future violence there.

The Government and armed forces of Indonesia should understand that what happens in West Timor and to East Timorese living elsewhere in Indonesia is as important to the United States policy as what happens in East Timor itself. The ongoing aid review that we initiated several weeks ago will take into account all relevant factors. These include whether a secure environment has been created in the West Timor camps, whether necessary services are being provided, whether East Timorese who desire to return home are allowed to do so, and whether Indonesia's military is preventing the militias in West Timor from carrying out attacks in East Timor.

Let me note in conclusion that while our meeting today was concerned primarily with East Timor, I remain deeply concerned about other developments in Indonesia, including the tragic deaths of six people in demonstrations this week. I will be meeting with Foreign Minister Alatas later this week to discuss a number of issues, including the importance of completing the selection process for President and Vice President, that it take place peacefully, without delay and in a fashion which reflects the clear desire of the Indonesian people for democratic change.

And now Mr. Gusmao. Thank you.

MR. GUSMAO: I would like to, on behalf of the East Timorese people, to thank the US Government, Secretary of State Ms. Madeleine Albright, and President Clinton for the role, for the important role that the United States played in avoiding a very dramatic genocide in East Timor. The East Timorese people showed to the world their determination to seek freedom and peace; that instead of freedom, instead of peace, we have to face a difficult time suffering from violence and killings, and now East Timorese people is dying for starvation and disease not only in the concentration camps in West Timor but also in the jungle of East Timor.

Again, to the United States, I am very grateful to meet the Secretary of State. In the name of my people, as you can understand, they appeal to more help to save my people. And I can say to you, too, that I received all these hearings on the United States in order to diminish the suffering of my people and, again, I am very, very thankful to the US Government.

I'm very sorry, my English doesn't allow me to speak very much better.

I bring the sorrow of my people and the suffering of my people to the hand of the Secretary of State and I can go back, I can return to East Timor, with new hope. I believe that East Timorese people, with the help of the international community and the United States, we can build a new country where love and democracy will be our most important ideals. We will do everything to help to build the idea of peace, democracy, love and justice to every people.

And I think, they have to be led - to be able to return to my country, to say to my people that we are not alone: we have our friends, many friends, and we can see the future with new faith, with new confidence and new determination.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you have made a number of demands from the Indonesian Government today. Are they being given - in your further contacts with the Indonesian Government, are they being given a date by which they should comply, and will the US consider further measures if they do not comply?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as I said, we are obviously in touch with the Indonesian Government. I will personally make these points again to Foreign Minister Alatas in my meeting with him. We want them to comply with all of this as soon as possible. Some of the conditions that are evident, there is no timetable; they just must stop doing the kinds of things that I have mentioned.

And as I have also said, that as reviews go forward, we are taking into consideration all the problems that have been described and our relationship cannot return to what has been considered a normal basis until these various issues are resolved and until it is possible for the international or the multinational force to be able to do its work and all the points that I raised about the militias and the Indonesian military and all the conditions in West Timor are also rectified.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, there have been persistent reports about the militias regrouping and possibly preparing to attack the peacekeepers. Is the United States prepared to provide reinforcements to the Australians should they need it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been, obviously, discussing how we can be helpful. We have been already very involved in talking with, obviously, the Australians and we will be assessing the situation as it evolves.

What I have found up here in the last week is the common determination of the international community to make the multinational force work properly and then also move into the transitional, the Phase III aspect, of the operation. And I think this has clearly been not just a subject of discussion up here but of effective action of trying to get all the pieces put together.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you feel that the military or the political authorities in Indonesia are coherent and in control and this is a concerted effort by them to make trouble or work their will, or do you think that anarchy is taking over Indonesia? Do you see any prospects that a government led by Megawati or anybody else could actually do a better job?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not going to get into the electoral campaign but what we do want to see is that the government in Jakarta get its act together in order to do what I asked here, which is to get the Indonesian military to control the militia and stop the militia from marauding and doing the kinds of things that Assistant Secretary Taft reported in terms of what is going on in the camps, where the militia are kind of running around and taking actions that are obviously unacceptable to the international community.

So I think that whatever the status of relationships with the Indonesian government, it behooves them to get control over this and try to regain the respect of the international community.

MR. RUBIN: We have time for one more in Portuguese right there, please.

QUESTION: I would like to know, Mr. President, when do you intend to return to East Timor, firstly; and, secondly, what do you expect from the tripartite meeting to which I believe you will not be able to take part?

MR. GUSMAO: I intend to return to East Timor as soon as I can do so, as soon as I am allowed to do so. As far as the tripartite meeting is concerned, I don't believe it will be the regular tripartite meeting and I expect that I will be able to take part.

MR. RUBIN: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

[End of Document]


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