Wellington – Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Jose Ramos Horta on Friday asked New Zealand to help push for a referendum on independence in his native East Timor which was annexed by Indonesia.
"New Zealand has had, in the last couple of years, a good, discreet record in putting pressure on Indonesia," Horta told a press conference.
He called on New Zealand to support the East Timorese people in their call for a referendum on their own future by quietly pressing Indonesia on the issue, but said he was not asking for trade sanctions to be imposed on Jakarta.
"We have no objections to New Zealand's trade relations and investment with Indonesia," he said.
"We are not asking for trade sanctions, we are asking for New Zealand to take a lead, even though discreet, in concert with Australia, the United States and European Union for a joint effort to put pressure on Indonesia." Earlier he met with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Don McKinnon who in a statement later said Wellington supported the concept of tripartite talks between Indonesia, Portugal and the United Nations.
McKinnon said he had listened carefully to Horta and give backing his goal of a public consulation while impressing on him the need for all parties to work constructively.
"Their objective is a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable outcome on East Timor," McKinnon said.
"The Asia-Pacific region has had this issue on its plate for many years and we all want to see it resolved.
"Whenever I meet Indonesia's Foreign Minister Ali Alatas we discuss East Timor and I register New Zealand's concerns about human rights issues and our wish to see progress towards a long term solution." Indonesia, the world's biggest Moslem country, invaded East Timor, a predominantly Christian former colony of Portugal, in 1975 and annexed it the following year.
The move has never been recognised by the United Nations, which considers Portugal to be the area's official administrator.
Ramos Horta won the 1996 Nobel Peace prize jointly with Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo of Dili, the capital of East Timor. mjf/mdl