Apr 1, 2013

Indonesia - Yudhoyono talks borders, ASEAN with Timor Leste’s Gusmao

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President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono has promised Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao a resolution of the border dispute between the two countries before the end of his presidency in 2014.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the two leaders, who met at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday, highlighted the border disputes that had been unresolved for years, as well as Jakarta’s commitment to supporting Timor Leste’s bid to join ASEAN.

“There are three sections left with unsettled demarcations on the Indonesia-Timor Leste border. The two leaders agreed to find a resolution as soon as possible,” Marty told reporters after the 1.5-hour meeting.

The three sections are Dilumil/Memo, Bijael Sunan Oben and Noel Besi/Citrana.

The two countries have agreed on 97 percent of their land border, which spans 268.8 kilometers.

Indonesia and Timor Leste have also agreed to implement a special arrangement in the areas surrounding demarcated sections of the border, to allow traditional border crossing to continue as normal, regardless of the disputes.

“Both Indonesians and people from Timor Leste living on both sides of border sections that are unsettled will always be able to continue their social connections, which they have retained for years,” Marty said.

Indonesia annexed East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1975, but lost control of it after a 1999 referendum.

On Timor Leste’s bid to be an ASEAN member, Marty said that Indonesia would never stop helping to promote Southeast Asia’s youngest nation by providing assistance with capacity building.

“Next Thursday, I’ll fly to Singapore for a one-day working visit where I’ll also talk with the Singaporean foreign minister about the matter,” he said, refusing to comment when asked if Singapore was blocking Timor Leste’s bid to join ASEAN.

“Making Timor Leste an ASEAN member is not merely a technical issue. It involves geopolitics. To Indonesia, Timor Leste is a Southeast Asian country. The region’s future would be unstable if it was not an ASEAN member,” Marty said.

“Timor Leste’s inclusion in ASEAN is in Indonesia’s interest. The country is important to Indonesia,” he went on.

Marty said Indonesia would prioritize pursuing a principal consensus among ASEAN’s members.

“It’s the most important step before we can proceed with determining the road map of Timor Leste’s ASEAN membership,” he said.

Indonesia’s support of Timor Leste’s bid to join ASEAN has been repeatedly voiced in many forums but the effort has so far been to no avail.

Gusmao’s visit to Jakarta was mainly aimed at attending the Jakarta Defense Dialogue, at which he is a regular speaker.

Both Yudhoyono and Gusmao did not talk to the press about their discussion after the meeting.

Trade cooperation between the two countries, in which Indonesia always enjoys a surplus of more than 90 percent, has shown a positive trend since 2008.

Last year, the trade value reached US$258.8 million against $221.52 in 2011.

Bagus BT Saragih

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