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Goff to make Easter visit to Timor Leste

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

23 March 2008
Media statement

Goff to make Easter visit to Timor Leste

Defence Minister Phil Goff is to leave for Timor Leste tomorrow where he will spend three days visiting New Zealand troops on the ground and holding talks with the country’s leaders.

“The armed attacks on President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on 11 February demonstrate the ongoing fragility of the situation in Timor Leste, which is also true of other countries in our region,” Mr Goff said.

“Had the assassination attempts succeeded they would have deprived Timor Leste of its most experienced leaders and led to chaos in the country. The attacks are evidence of the need for the continuing presence of New Zealand troops and police to assist security.

“This visit is my ninth to Timor Leste in nine years. It reinforces New Zealand’s commitment to our friends and the democratically elected Government in Timor Leste, as the country seeks to build its own capability and deal with the huge social, political and economic challenges it faces.

“The visit will allow me to meet New Zealand troops, the International Stabilisation Force leadership and the United Nations head of mission. I hope to accompany a New Zealand patrol to assess first hand the security situation. The visit gives me an opportunity to acknowledge on behalf of all New Zealanders the excellent work our Defence Force personnel continue to do in Timor Leste and the importance of the role they are playing.

“I will be meeting with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and acting President Fernando Lasama in Dili, and will call on Opposition leader Mari Alkatiri. I also plan to visit in Darwin President Jose Ramos Horta, who I have known and worked with for a long time. He has been discharged from hospital but remains in Australia while he recovers.

“New Zealand is the second largest contributor to the International Security Force in Timor Leste. We have a company of 142 personnel and have recently extended the deployment of two UH-1H Iroquois helicopters and 32 air crew and support personnel. We also contribute 25 police and a small number of advisors to the United Nations mission and the Timor Leste military,” Phil Goff said.

ENDS

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