08/28/2015, 00.00
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Jakarta and Dili to settle territorial disputes before the end of the year

The two governments have agreed in principle to boost trade and technical cooperation as well. Maritime disputes should be settled by the end of the year. Border posts are opened to facilitate cultural exchanges. Following its agreement with the Holy See, the latest steps will further Timor Leste’s foreign policy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia and Timor Leste agreed on Wednesday to begin negotiating unresolved land and maritime border issues and enhance bilateral ties, particularly in trade and investment.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo made the commitment during a meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Central Jakarta.

The Indonesian-East Timorese summit comes after the Vatican Secretary of Relations with States, Card Pietro Parolin, met with leaders in both countries.

“We have agreed that the two remaining unresolved [border] issues are to be resolved by the end of this year,” President Jokowi said at a joint press statement after the meeting. The two issues referred to are Noel Besi-Citrana and Bijael Sunan-Oben land border areas.

“We will also start discussing the maritime boundaries,” he added. “I believe this will also be resolved soon.”

Both countries have instructed their respective technical teams to prepare for consultations, Prime Minister Araújo said,  ahead of “the next Joint Border Committee meeting to be held in Dili soon”.

Jakarta reiterated its commitment to help boost infrastructure development in Timor Leste and to enhance bilateral trade ties.

Araújo expressed his appreciation for Indonesia’s commitment to stronger partnerships and technical assistance, particularly in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, trade and infrastructure, which he deemed consistent with Timor Leste’s national development priorities and agenda.

During the bilateral talks, the two countries signed two memorandums of understanding on agricultural cooperation and on technical cooperation in the forestry sector.

Both Jakarta and Dili also want to foster cultural exchange and facilitate the movement of people who live along their mutual border or want to go and live in the other country. At present, some 500 students East Timorese live in Indonesia, and 700 Indonesians in East Timor, Araújo said.

Recently, the two governments also agreed to the opening of nine border posts in accordance with a 2003 agreement.

All this diplomatic activity comes in the wake of Vatican Secretary of State Card Pietro Parolin’s visit to both Indonesia and East Timor in mid-August.

During his stay in the former Portuguese colony, the chief Vatican diplomat signed an historic agreement between the Holy See and Dili, aimed at helping the people of Timor Leste pursue its material and spiritual development.

Originally, East Timor gained its independence from Portugal on 28 November 1975; however, after civil war broke out, the United Nations allowed Indonesia to occupy territory. This was followed by 25 years of violence and war against Indonesian rule.

Finally, the tiny country, which occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor, became independent in 2002 as the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

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