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Four feted for Aceh peace role

Jakarta Post - August 19, 2006

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono conferred honorary state medals Friday to former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and three other foreigners for their role in bringing peace to Aceh.

They were either involved in mediating the Memorandum of Understanding between the central government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), signed on Aug. 15 last year to end a decades-long armed conflict, or monitoring its implementation.

No GAM representatives were present at the ceremony at Merdeka Palace.

Yudhoyono conferred the country's most prestigious honor, the Bintang Republik Indonesia Utama, on Ahtisaari, the chairman of Helsinki-based Crisis Management Initiative (shown above). He was honored for facilitating the MOU and enhancing ties between Indonesia and his homeland.

The Bintang Jasa Utama honor was granted to Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith and Thailand's Lt. Gen. Nipat Thonglek (second and third from left in the line) for their role as the chief and deputy of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) respectively.

AMM consists of monitors from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union who ensure the peace deal is carried out and also settle disputes.

The President also presented the Bintang Jasa Pratama medal to Juha Christensen (fourth in line), who brokered the peace talks and later became the special adviser to AMM.

"I hope you will accept this honorary medal as a symbol of friendship, respect and gratitude from the people of Indonesia," Yudhoyono told Ahtisaari after expressing his gratitude to all the recipients.

Yudhoyono also praised the work of the AMM in ensuring that the details of the agreement were complied with.

Ahtisaari, speaking on behalf of the other recipients, said he believed nothing would have been accomplished without the commitment to peace from the former enemies. "And I will come back to see how things go. I feel like a godfather here, and a godfather has responsibilities," he said.