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East Timor non-negotiable, Indonesia's Suharto tells UN envoy

Dow Jones News Service - March 20, 1997

Jakarta – President Suharto Thursday told a top U.N. envoy who is here to discuss the conflict in East Timor that Indonesia's annexation of the former Portuguese colony if final and non-negotiable.

In his meeting with envoy Jamshed Marker, Suharto said that 'for the people of Indonesia, for the Indonesian nation, the problem of East Timor is over.'

His remarks were reported by Foreign Minister Ali Alatas.

But, Alatas said, Suharto promised to give full support to efforts by the United Nations to find a solution to the 22-year-old conflict in East Timor.

He did not elaborate or say how Indonesia will reconcile the two mutually exclusive stands.

Marker did not comment on Suharto's hard line stand, except saying: 'I am now in the process of sounding out Indonesia's views on the situation.'

'We are only offering our goodwill and good office as mediator to help find a solution to the East Timor problem,' said Marker, the special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 in the midst of a civil war that forced Portugal out after 400 years of colonial rule. Jakarta annexed the territory a year later, but it does not have the recognition of the United Nations, which supports Portugal as East Timor's administering power.

Besides, Indonesian troops controlling the region have been regularly accused of human rights abuse in their attempts to control a simmering separatist campaign.