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Cook calls for EU 'troika' to visit Timor

The Times (UK) - August 30, 1997

David Watts, Jakarta – Britain is proposing a new move in the decades - old East Timor dispute. In an attempt to bring Indonesia out of isolation over its illegal occupation of the tiny Far Eastern territory, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, proposed yesterday that a European Union "troika" should carry out a fact-finding mission.

The group, comprising senior representatives of the EU presidency, would be the first senior diplomats to travel there since Indonesian troops fought to seize control in 1975. Mr Cook's announcement was accompanied by a wider initiative to foster human rights in Indonesia in general as part of Britain's "moral" foreign policy in the Third World. The Foreign Secretary held "very frank" talks with his Indonesian counterpart on Jakarta's human rights record and offered a six-point aid package to improve matters.

The EU troika's mission will be to try to find a way out of the deadlock that has bedevilled negotiations between Indonesia and its former colonial power, Portugal, for years.

Indonesia has refused to yield the territory despite years of international pressure. Its takeover came with British and American connivance at a time when communism was felt to be dominating East Asia. The Indonesians invaded only months after the fall of Saigon, believing that East Timor itself would become communist.

Jakarta has steadfastly refused a plebiscite among the 800,000 inhabitants and says that Portugal has no right to negotiate East Timor's future because it irresponsibly abandoned the territory after 500 years of colonial exploitation at the time of the Portuguese revolution.

Ali Alatas, the Indonesan Foreign Minister, welcomed Mr Cook's initiative last night, saying that Indonesia had been trying for years to get senior diplomats to travel there to see the reality for themselves. Britain and other countries have so far sent only junior diplomats to East Timor, feeling that sending a more senior person would amount to recognition of Indonesia's right to the territory.

Mr Cook said the six – point British aid package included offering material support to the National Human Rights Commission which, although set up by the State, has criticised what it considers to be abuses.

Similar help would be given to the Legal Aid Foundation, which advises poor defendants, and would offer 20 scholarships in Britain for the study of good government. British police would also give lectures to Indonesian law enforcement officers on ways of dealing with public order problems.

Today Britain will announce new measures to crack down on paedophiles and the child sex trade in the Philippines. Mr Cook, who arrived in Manila last night, is to unveil the measures after visiting a child refuge.

They are expected to focus on co-operation between the British and Philippines Governments and police forces, with support for child aid organisations.