PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF TIMOR-LESTE
At a Headquarters press conference this morning, President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste spoke about his country’s admission to the United Nations, describing today as an important occasion for himself, his people and their history.
Asked how he felt, as a former freedom fighter who had struggled so long for his country, to get so far, President Gusmao replied that he felt overwhelmed by the difficult challenges facing him, but also very proud.
In response to a question about his relationship with West Timor and Indonesia, the President said he had a very good relationship with the Indonesian Government and was trying to forge more regional cooperation. With regard to West Timor, both Timor-Leste and Indonesia had made strong efforts to repatriate the East Timorese refugees there and to improve cooperation in terms of trade and culture.
Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, who was also present, was asked how he felt, given his more than 20 years of lobbying at Headquarters, to return in a much more powerful position. Mr. Ramos-Horta said he was profoundly happy and proud of what had been achieved today, but also overwhelmed by the challenges ahead of consolidating peace and striving to meet the expectations and aspirations of the people of Timor-Leste. He added that he had always had fond memories of the United Nations and New York because, over the course of many years, he had kept the faith owing to the help of many friends in the city and in the Building.
President Gusmao, asked about the trial of a militia leader accused of war crimes in East Timor, that had been deemed unsatisfactory by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, replied that he had also been disappointed with the Indonesian tribunal. He added that he was still presenting Indonesia with the opportunity to prove itself in further stages of the process. Hopefully, Indonesia would honour its commitment to send all suspected perpetrators to trial. It was important to give the Indonesian Government the opportunity to prove its ability to respond to demands for justice.
When asked what he thought of the United States seeking United Nations support for an invasion of Iraq, he said that as a newly independent nation with experience of war and violence, his efforts should be concentrated on looking after his people and taking care of their needs. Declining to speak about matters that did not directly concern his nation, he said, however, that war and its consequences were very negative.
A journalist asked the President what he felt, considering his call before the General Assembly for the independence of Palestine and Western Sahara, about efforts by certain Indonesian territories to seek independence. He replied that it had always been a great problem in Timor-Leste’s diplomatic and political struggle to separate itself from the idea that it should serve as an example to separatist movements in Indonesia. He said he respected the territorial integrity of Indonesia and the rights and aspirations of its people. Appealing for an end to fighting, he added that only dialogue could produce a satisfactory solution to all parties.
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