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Goff visits East Timor

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

7 June 2006
Media statement

Goff visits East Timor

Defence Minister Phil Goff has urged East Timor's leaders to take a firm stand against the violence and crime destabilising the country during talks in Dili today.

Mr Goff and his Australian counterpart Dr Brendan Nelson met President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari'e Alkatiri, Defence and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, and Brigadier Mick Slater during a five hour visit to East Timor.

Mr Goff was also able to call on New Zealand Defence Force personnel who are stationed at Becora, serving with the Australian-led intervention force attempting to quell the violence that has flared over past weeks. He said in their political meetings the Ministers had called on East Timor's leadership to exert pressure to end the troubles, with homes still being burnt and looted.

"The common message we have given to all leaders that we have met is that political differences have to be resolved lawfully and constitutionally," Mr Goff said. "The leadership has to take a very firm line against violent and criminal behaviour."

Mr Goff said the New Zealand troops stationed in East Timor would remain as long as it took to help provide stability. He said while troops could provide some security, they may need to be supported by an international community policing presence.

A New Zealand police scoping team arrived in East Timor this week to consider community policing options.

"Our Defence Forces can do some jobs very well. What they can't be is a community policing organisation.

"New Zealand is reviewing what it can do to contribute but there is also a range of countries which can contribute to an international response.''

Mr Goff, who left East Timor this afternoon, said he remained optimistic for the country's future.

"This is a country that has been through so much suffering for such a long time. We can help with the maintenance of law and order, but it is for the political leadership to address the underlying problems".


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