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Timor Leste to purchase weapons from Indonesia

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2014

Jakarta – The Indonesian and Timor Leste governments have agreed to boost security and defense ties during a meeting between Defense Minister Poernomo Yusgiantoro and visiting Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, which was a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and then Timor Leste president Jose Ramos Horta in Dili in 2012.

"This will include military cooperation, education and training," Poernomo said. He said that under the agreement, the Timor Leste government would purchase weapons made by the Indonesian defense industry. "Currently, Timor Leste is building its defense capabilities, especially with regard to border patrols," Poernomo said.

Xanana, who also serves as Timor Leste's defense minister confirmed the weapons purchase. "We will possibly buy weapons or ammunition. We need to develop our army capability, to be ready to face challenges in the future," he said. "As long as we don't use them to attack any country."

Xanana said that during the meeting, the two sides also discussed border protection. "Indonesia and Timor Leste are neighbors, we share a common border and have related issues," Xanana said. He said that cooperation with Indonesia would be of great significance.

Last year, Yudhoyono and visiting Timor Leste President Jose Maria Vasconcelos, popularly known as Taur Matan Ruak, agreed to enhance what they deemed "good relations", as well as shoring up support for Timor Leste's ASEAN membership bid.

The high-level meeting also highlighted disputed sections of the border that had been left unresolved for years and resolved one of the disputed sections, the Dilumi/Memo section.

The other two disputed sections (Bijael Sunan Oben and Noel Besi/Citrana), however, were left unresolved. The two countries have managed to demarcate around 97 percent of the total land border, which spans 268.8 kilometers.

Indonesia annexed Timor Leste (at that time East Timor) in 1975, but lost control of it after a referendum in 1999. Timor Leste formally declared independence in May 2002.

Trade between Indonesia and Timor Leste has increased over the last few years. Last year, the trade value reached US$258.8 million, compared with $221.52 in 2011.

In 2012, the Timor Leste government's plan to purchase tanks and armored personnel carriers from an Indonesian defense company PT Pindad was criticized by local non-governmental organizations for lacking transparency. Civil groups had also criticized the plan because initial tests indicated that the military vehicles were substandard.