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Australian Defence Chief On East Timor Operations

MEDIA RELEASE

DPAO 363/99
Monday, December 13, 1999

AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE CHIEF REVIEWS EAST TIMOR OPERATION

The Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, returned from East Timor this morning after visiting Australian troops on the western border and in the Ocussi enclave of East Timor.

"After just 80 days, INTERFET operations to establish peace and security throughout in East Timor have been highly successful," Admiral Barrie said.

"After visiting our troops providing border security, I was particularly proud of their professionalism and their ongoing commitment to contain militia activity. They are conducting patrols, staffing checkpoints, escorting conveys and facilitating humanitarian operations.

"Our troops have reflected that great Australian value of giving everyone a fair go - by their firm, unbiased, yet compassionate treatment of all parties. Their efforts are much appreciated by the East Timorese who have returned to their villages to rebuild their lives.

"Our soldiers also are providing the right environment to encourage the East Timorese refugees to return home across the border. The successful return of these refugees remains the outstanding humanitarian issue of the current operations.

"I am encouraged by the negotiations going on between INTERFET, CNRT, UNTAET and TNI to discuss border management issues and the safe repatriation of refugees free from militia harassment.

"With INTERFET's mandate largely fulfilled, I am also looking forward to the establishment of more robust civil administration and the transition to the UNTAET peacekeeping operation."

Admiral Barrie reviewed the operations carried out in Suai and Balibo by the 2nd Battalion, as well as speaking with 3rd Battalion personnel at Ocussi township and the enclave border with West Timor. Successful border control will continue to be the critical factor for the next 12 months "Our efforts in the field would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of all those in supporting roles, both civilian and military, who have been critical to the deployment and sustainment of our operations," Admiral Barrie said.

"And, of course, my special vote of thanks go to the families of our personnel, and appreciation for their support and sacrifices while their loved ones are away."

ENDS


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