I appreciate this opportunity to address the Security Council once again on the subject of East Timor.1 We wish to assure you, Mr President, of my delegation's desire to co-operate fully with you in the Council's efforts to find a solution to the question which is at present before us.
I likewise welcome the reports of the Secretary-General and of Mr Winspeare-Guicciardi and I wish, on behalf of my Government, to congratulate Mr Winspeare on the task which he has performed under the terms of Council Resolution 383. His report, now before the Council, is a significant addition to our knowledge of the situation in East Timor.
The Secretary-General and his special representative were both in Australia at the beginning of February. As a result they will both have gained an appreciation of the intense Australian public interest in the Timor question. Indeed the events as they have unfolded in East Timor since the middle of last year have caused deep public distress in Australia. My Government feels keenly the need for peace in the territory, and progress and prosperity for its people.
The special representative has expended much effort in his endeavours over a period of some weeks to determine the views of the parties and to promote the conditions necessary for the parties to discuss differences among themselves. His task was not always easy, but he clearly went to great lengths, and in the face of considerable difficulties, to establish comprehensive contacts with the various parties and governments as required under the terms of his mandate.
The Indonesian Government assisted with his visit to Dili from where the special representative travelled to areas of Timor administered by the Provisional Government of East Timor. While in Dili Mr Winspeare was able to have discussions with members of all parties which have decided to join the PGET.
In response to his request the Australian Government was pleased to welcome Mr Winspeare in Darwin from where he attempted to arrange a visit to Fretilin-held areas. But while he was able to meet Fretilin representatives at several points in the course of his mission, including Darwin, he was unable to reach Fretilin-held areas in Timor.
This was a matter of regret to my Government which had agreed to provide the special representative with facilities to assist him to establish contact with the Fretilin forces in Timor.
But we do not regard his mission as being necessarily finished. The special representative has been able to clarify the positions of the parties on the ground with respect to the future of East Timor. Clearly there remain great differences between them as to how the situation in the territory should develop, and as to how the people of the territory should express their views.
The special representative, however, senses that despite these differences there is some common desire for further consultations and the Secretary-General has proposed that time should be allowed for the special representative to continue these consultations. Mr Winspeare has also spoken of the situation in the territory as continuing to evolve. This would suggest that there is still a requirement for information on developments there. A further visit to Timor by the special representative could help in this regard. We note from Mr Winspeare's report that the Provisional Government of East Timor has invited the special representative to make a further visit to East Timor and we welcome their assurances that he would be able to visit areas to which he had not been able to travel on his earlier visit to the territory.
The Australian position on the Timor conflict has been clearly stated. It accords with the resolutions adopted in December by the General Assembly and by the Security Council. We support the main thrust of both resolutions, notably their call for a withdrawal of outside forces and a process by which the people of East Timor can determine their own future.
We were glad to read in the official statement issued by the Indonesian Government in Jakarta on 20 March that the PGET had notified Indonesia that it would shortly be repatriating some of the Indonesian forces from the territory. It appears, moreover, that some may already have returned to Indonesia. Australia welcomes these developments and we look forward to further moves in this direction in line with our policy of seeking the withdrawal of all outside forces.
In my last statement to the Council on East Timor I emphasised that the Australian Government and people were most conscious that a stable settlement in East Timor can rest only on the free choice by the people concerned. It remains the firm policy of the Australian Government that the people of the territory should exercise freely and effectively their right of self-determination. And, if their decision is to have any validity, it must be made in the full knowledge of the alternatives from which they are to make their choice.
My Government does not, however, presume to lay down any precise formula or modalities for self-determination. We should prefer to respond to the wishes of the Timorese people themselves as to the best means by which they might genuinely exercise their right of self-determination.
We note from the special representative's report that the parties principally concerned are also agreed on the need for United Nations involvement in self-determination in the territory. While we recognise that the question of United Nations assistance in this area would need to be subject to separate consideration and examination, we nevertheless believe that some form of United Nations participation would be appropriate, desirable, and in the best interest of the parties concerned.
We have noted the remarks of the representatives of the PGET and their proposals for self-determination in the territory. At first sight these proposals would appear to bear some relation to an earlier program of de-colonisation announced by the Government of Portugal. While we believe that these proposals are interesting and deserve further study, there would be a need to ensure that the election of a People's Assembly, or Parliament, was conducted in such a manner as would allow the people of East Timor freely to express their views.
The Australian Government continues to regard as important an early resumption of international humanitarian aid to the territory. The conflict has brought hardship and suffering to much of the population. We appreciate the work of the Indonesian Red Cross, but this is a task in which others, including of course the ICRC, would be glad to participate. Australia has already provided humanitarian assistance not only within East Timor itself but also to the Timorese who last year took refuge in Indonesian Timor. Australia remains ready to contribute again to humanitarian aid for East Timor.
Mr President, our wish is to see an end to the suffering in Timor and to encourage all moves designed to resolve the conflict in Timor. It appears that although the situation in the territory has evolved since the Council last considered the question, some fighting may be continuing there. We believe that the best course for the Council at this stage would be to extend the mandate of the special representative to allow him to make a second visit to the territory to assess the situation afresh and to ascertain the prospects for consultations among the parties. Out of his renewed efforts, we would also hope to get a clearer picture of the means by which the people of the territory may freely and effectively express their choice about their future.2
[NAA: Al838, 3038/911, ii]