04/30/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA – EAST TIMOR
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Ramos-Horta apologises to Indonesia, studies possible military ‘co-operation”

by Mathias Hariyadi
In his visit to Jakarta East Timor prime minister apologies on behalf of his president who had accused Indonesia of involvement in the attack against him in February. The visit is also meant to vet the possibility of military co-operation between the two countries, something which the international community views with concern.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – East Timor President José Ramos-Horta apologised to Indonesian authorities for charges he made over Indonesia’s possible involvement in an attempted murder against him back in February. East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao yesterday delivered the apologies in person to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the start of an official visit to Indonesia. For many it is not coincidental that the apology came as Indonesian police extradited to East Timor four East Timorese deserters linked to the attack.

On 11 February President Ramos-Horta was seriously wounded to the stomach in an attack led by rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the gunfight that followed the attack. Mr Xanana, who was also a target of the rebels, was not hurt on that occasion.

Official apology aside, the prime minister’s trip is designed to consolidate the tricky relations between the two neighbours.

Indonesia’s President Susilo himself announced that “sensitive” issues will be discussed, including limited military co-operation.

“We strongly hope that the international community will not suspect us for this kind of cooperation. We have agreed that military ties between Dili and Jakarta would only include an officer exchange programme,” Mr Susilo said.

East Timor’s demand to send its officers for commando training in Indonesia has not been implemented yet. “This is too sensitive,” President Susilo said.

From 1975 and 1999 East Timor was under Indonesian military occupation. The Indonesian military abused the local population in all sorts of ways, causing the death of tens of thousands of civilians.

Since 2000 however, the governments of the two countries have pursued a policy of friendship and reconciliation, trying to play down the violence that occurred before East Timor achieved independence (2001) as well as Indonesia’s subsequent failure to bring those responsible for such violence to justice.

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