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Timor: Situation Calm Despite Isolated Clashes

Timor-Leste: Situation Calm Despite Isolated Clashes Involving Political Opposition

Despite isolated clashes involving martial arts and political opposition groups, the overall situation in Timor-Leste has remained “calm and stable” since May, when the Church and the Timorese Government peacefully resolved their dispute over religious teaching in schools, the senior United Nations envoy for the world’s newest country reported to the Security Council today.

Timor-Leste’s relationships with Australia and Indonesia had continued to grow, and although no major border and security incidents had taken place, the clashes involving martial arts groups had prompted Timorese President Xanana Gusmao to bring together 14 of the groups to sign a declaration committing them to eradicate violence, Sukehiro Hasegawa, head of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) said.

The activities of political interest groups had led the police to seize weapons and to hold some members for questioning, largely in the Baucau district, he said, briefing the Council on the situation in the country since UNOTILs’ establishment last May, as a successor to the UN Mission of Support in Timor-Leste (UNMISET), which was established in 2002 to help with administrative structures, law enforcement and security after the country gained independence from Indonesia.

Concerning the political process, he said that local elections during the reporting period had been conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Presidential and national parliamentary elections were to be held in 18 months, and recently, both President Gusmao and Prime Minister Alkatiri had requested UN assistance in drafting electoral laws, he added.

On the diplomatic front, he said an agreement with Australia over the sharing of Timor Sea oil and gas resources was close to finalization. The July Joint Ministerial Commission Meeting between Indonesia and Timor-Leste had decided that the countries would reach an agreement on the remaining four per cent of their common border. Also, Indonesia and Timor-Leste had launched a bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship.

Mr. Hasegawa said that in the absence of a UN security force, security and safety of United Nations personnel remained a major concern and challenge to UNOTIL and that necessary security measures within existing resources had been developed to ensure that all such personnel would remain safe and secure.

Reading out a statement to the press following the briefing, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, of Japan, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month of August, said that the 15-nation body welcomes UNOTIL’s efforts to consolidate the gains made by predecessor UN missions particularly in helping Timor-Leste strengthen its democratic governance, the capacity of its State institutions of public administration, and its legal and rule of law framework, including national police and border patrol unit.

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