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Remarks at MoU Road Signing Ceremony, Banda Aceh

Remarks at MoU Road Signing Ceremony

Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary

Banda Aceh, Indonesia
May 8, 2005

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Mr. Acting Governor, Pak Kuntoro. Deputy Commander, Mayor, other Excellencies, and the people of Aceh. I can see even in a very brief visit, this is a very beautiful land and the people are very, very warm. So when tragedy struck here on December 26, we are very pleased that the American people, our Navy, our AID people, but most of all the public all across America, their hearts went out to the people of Aceh, and they wanted to help. They wanted to bring food and water, supplies, but most of all they wanted to bring a sense of hope. And so as we come to this stage, we know there is still a tremendous amount of work to do.

But this road, which we're starting today, may be a part of an artery that will bring life and commerce and more hope and opportunity to the people of Aceh. So, my people are very proud to have an association with the people of Aceh and all the people of Indonesia. They hope that out of this tragedy might come closer ties between our people, because we can see that working together we can create something that we didn't have before the tsunami and the tragedy struck, and that is ties that bind. We just visited a community here, not far away, and we saw that the heart of Aceh is its people, the individual leaders that will step up and take charge even in the midst of great sorrow with loss of families in trying to create a new Aceh.

And that's what gives me a sense of hope. And that's what motivates all the Americans here that want to try to do their small part to help the people of Aceh and Indonesia, because we can see the strength, the vibrancy, the courage and the warmth of the people of Aceh. So we thank you for this opportunity to try to help in a time of need, because we know that at some other point the favor will be returned, because that's the nature of the people of Aceh and the people of Indonesia. So, thank you.

QUESTION: How much is the total being provided by the US for Aceh, and how long will the assistance last?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: There are basically three types of assistance the United States is giving to Aceh. The first is for infrastructure projects, of which this road is the most important one. The second is for a series of programs that help people move from the temporary shelters and camps to rebuild their communities. So, we saw an example of this where people are trying to help rebuild their homes, get basic sanitation, their fisherman rebuild, have boats so they can regain their occupation. And the third, is to help develop the local governance and capabilities here so as to strengthen the ability of the people of Aceh to help themselves. Because ultimately, the story of Aceh must be remade by the people of Aceh. In terms of total funds, the United States Congress is just completing action on about $900 million with the funds for the various countries that were hit by the tsunami. And of that, by far the largest proportion will go to Indonesia.

QUESTION: Ok thank you very much, I am Nurdin from Serambi daily printed in Aceh. I would like to ask Mr. Zoellick, as we know that Aceh is still in conflict between rebels and the government, so do you think that building the road, because from Banda Aceh to Meulaboh there are also some areas that [are] still dangerous, so what do you think, and how [can] this road be built during this situation [when it] is not safe for workers. And the second question is, how do you think the peace talk is [going] that [is] now still going on between [the] government and GAM rebels in Aceh, and what is the US hope about this peace talks. Thank you very much.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well as, for your first question, it is probably more appropriate for your government officials to talk about the security in Aceh, but I have been very pleased that as the relief efforts have gone forward over the past 4 months it seems that they have been able to go forward in a climate of peace and general security conditions, so that my country and other countries, and the government of Indonesia, various NGOs, can all help the people of Aceh, because that is their purpose. So, in terms of building the road, I would hope all parties in Aceh would recognize that the road is for all the people of Aceh and to help them rebuild their economy and rebuild their society so that all would be supportive of the effort. As for your second question, about the peace talks, I had some chance to talk to the President yesterday and the Coordinating Minister for Security, and I think there has been positive movement in the discussions. There are still obviously many difficult issues to overcome, but the mediation that is being undertaken by Mr. Ahtisaari, a Finn, in discussions in Stockholm, seems to be moving in the right direction. And I said to the President and to other ministers that if there are ways that the US can help, we would certainly be pleased to try to consider any suggestions. We realize that these are sensitive issues. They will involve parties other than the United States, but if, for example, the overall work we're doing in terms of reconstruction and assistance can in some way be connected or enlarged and expanded, to the overall effort to bring peace and reconciliation to Aceh, then this terrible tragedy will have produced something very important beyond the reconstruction. And so we would be pleased to try to consider other ways that we can help with that process.


Released on May 9, 2005

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