04/08/2005, 00.00
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Susilo's historic visit to East Timor

For the first time since East Timor's independence, an Indonesian President will visit the cemetery of Santa Cruz, where unarmed Timorese civilians were massacred by Indonesian troops. Susilo will also sign a border agreement with East Timor.

Dili (AsiaNews/Agencies) –Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is visiting East Timor for the first time since his election as President of Indonesia in October 2004.

He arrived today in the East Timorese capital of Dili to sign a key agreement settling border issues and to foster on reconciliation with the former Indonesian province.

The Indonesian head of state is also expected to pay tribute to East Timorese victims of the country's war of independence against Indonesia.

In the capital, President Susilo will meet his East Timorese counterpart, Xanana Gusmao, before signing with East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri the accord delineating the two countries' border.

The border demarcation is one of the last bilateral issues to be solved by Dili and Jakarta stemming from the brutal Indonesian occupation (1976-1999) of the former Portuguese colony. With this step, both parties are ready to put the painful past aside.

Before and after the UN-backed 1999 referendum on independence Indonesian troops and proxy militias killed about 1,500 East Timorese. At that time General Susilo commanded a battalion in East Timor.

As proof of his goodwill and desire for reconciliation, President Susilo will visit the cemetery Santa Cruz.

It is the first time that an Indonesian President pays tribute to the victims of the massacre perpetrated by Indonesian soldiers on November 12, 1991, against unarmed civilians who were commemorating the death of a pro-independence activist. About 250 of the 3,000 protesters were killed when the occupation troops opened fire.

Yesterday East Timorese President Gusmao urged the population not to protest against Susilo, saying he would resign in case of disorders. "Please, forget the bitter past," he said.

Official East Timorese sources said that the scheduled dinner in honour of the Indonesian guest was cancelled because Susilo wanted to follow the live coverage of the Pope's funeral in Rome.

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