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Indonesia, Australia and East Timor End Talks - 2002-02-26

Indonesia, Australia and East Timor have just concluded talks to strengthen their relationship before East Timor achieves full independence in May. The agenda included fighting international terrorism.

The leaders of the first tri-lateral talks hailed the discussions as a resounding success.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and East Timor's chief minister Mari Alkatri met Tuesday. They discussed such issues as regional economic development and trans-national crime.

Foreign Minister Wirajuda says the talks included international terrorism a subject already being discussed by ASEAN the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "We also exchanged views on how we should work together in combating terrorism. I briefed with my East Timorese and Australian counterparts on what we have done in ASEAN," Mr. Wirajuda said.

Indonesia has come under fire from Singapore and other nations, which accuse Jakarta of failing to do enough to stop regional terrorist networks. The Australian foreign minister says that criticism is not justified. "I'm certainly not getting into the game of criticizing Indonesia. This is a difficult issue, but it's one that was discussed when Prime Minister Howard visited Jakarta. I think it's best summarized that Indonesia and Australia have signed a memorandum of understanding on the question of terrorism. That's an extraordinarily important step forward, and it will lead to close cooperation between our respective agencies that deal with issues of terrorism," Mr. Wirajuda said.

The tri-lateral talks were the first of their kind. One goal of the talks was to bring East Timor into regional diplomacy.

East Timor has been under United Nations administration since its people voted to break from Indonesia in 1999. It will become fully independent in May.