INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt hopes Of Non-Timor APEC Dashed

Published: Fri 10 Sep 1999 11:41 AM
By Selwyn Manning
Any hopes by the New Zealand Government that East Timor will not overshadow APEC look to be dashed this morning. US President Bill Clinton issued a press conference at the White House a short time ago protesting that Indonesia “must” ask the international community to aid it in bringing about peace in East Timor.
President Clinton said issues surrounding the East Timor crisis “will” play a large part in the schedules of countries gathered in Auckland for the leader’s summit APEC meeting.
President Clinton said: “If Indonesia cannot end the violence [in East Timor] then it must ask the international community to help bring about peace.”
Other issues high on the USA’s agenda will be bilateral talks between President Clinton and the Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Speaking in Canberra, President Jiang Zemin, says WTO would be on the agenda of his summit with "my old friend" President Bill Clinton when the two meet in Auckland.
The main WTO discussions would be held between US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and China's Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng and chief negotiator Long Yongtu.
Negotiations between the two countries were put on hold after Nato's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in May.
For more on the US/Chinese bilateral meetings see Scoop columnist John Howard’s report http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL9909/S00068.htm
Meanwhile Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Alatas has issued his support for the United Nations to re-enter East Timor as observers.
The observers mission will be allowed back into East Timor on Saturday. In a statement Ali Alatas has blamed rogue elements in the Indonesian military for the chaos in East Timor and says that authorities are now regaining control.
CNN is reporting that the "violence appears to be burning itself out" in Dili and quotes a spokeswoman for President Habibie explaining recent events in Jakarta on a nationalist backlash at perceived Western interference.
Meanwhile New Zealand political friction continues with disunity of the East Timor crisis. The Government has been determined to avoid fallout between APEC countries while in Auckland for the leader’s summit meetings.
Foreign affairs minister Don McKinnon has been working to forge consensus between the Asian and western factions of APEC countries. He managed to gather all nations currently in Auckland for APEC to attend yesterday’s special meeting called to discuss ways to stop the killings inside East Timor.
And the National Party issued a statement from its chief whip’s office showing its preoccupation with achieving a peaceful settlement through diplomatic means.
Gerry Browlee said: “I am deeply concerned about the travesties of justice and crimes against humanity that are taking place in East Timor,” said Mr Brownlee. “New Zealand needs to be cautious but firm in approach to this problem.
“Those who are calling for urgent intervention need to realise that if either New Zealand or Australia were to set foot on East Timorese soil with armed soldiers, then that would be considered an act of aggression and we would be effectively at war with a country that has a standing army of 450,000 men, all well-armed, and a well resourced air force and navy on top of that, and a capacity to mobilise up to 5 million reservists at very short notice.
“Our Defence personnel number in total 4,000 people. Clearly, we are not in a position to get into this type of action. I applaud Mrs Shipley for her efforts at seeking some diplomatic solution to this appalling problem,” Mr Brownlee said.
But opposition parties are fervently opposed to the National Government’s softly “see what happens” approach.
Labour leader Helen Clark said this morning: “The New Zealand Government’s position is morally repugnant. All week it has stood by and insisted that the Indonesian Government is doing its best to bring the situation under control. That is ridiculous.
“The Prime Minister’s only interest in East Timor this week has been to get it off the agenda of her summit. She repeats this morning that she wants to get on with the medium-term issues of raising Asian countries out of poverty.
“It is not poverty that is being talked about in East Timor: it is genocide and ethnic cleansing,” Ms Clark said.
Labour says agricultural trade negotiations now pale into insignificance.
“Frankly discussing tariffs on shoes, lamb, and rice seems irrelevant to most people while news of this crisis grips not only the region but the world.
“Urgent consideration must now be given to economic measures designed to bring the Indonesian regime to its senses. There can now be no certainty that Indonesia’s parliament will uphold the East Timorese people’s choice. If Indonesian chooses to become a pariah nation then it is not fit to receive the continuing flow of western funds it needs to stay afloat,” Helen Clark said.
Meanwhile the Pentagon has suspended official relations with Indonesia's military in protest at recent events in East Timor.
US Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Henry H. Shelton stated this morning that the US no longer rules out military involvement in bringing about peace in East Timor.. He said it was possible the US could offer logistical and communications support to any peacekeeping force that might operate in the area.
President Bill Clinton also said this morning from the White House that any UN ground troop involvement in East Timor would largely be made up of troops from countries within the region – ie: Australia, New Zealand and an Asian presence.
Britain has a Naval ship, the HMS Glasgow steaming for East Timor. And an Australasian contingent is already gathering in Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.
British foreign minister, Robin Cook, said yesterday that his government is discussing what ground force commitment it could muster should a UN peacekeeping force be employed to East Timor.
Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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