Australian defence minister commits to East Timor's security

Sat, 03 Oct 2009 04:59:09 GMT

Dili - Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner visited East Timor Saturday and reiterated his country's commitment to maintaining security in the newly formed country, officials said. Faulkner met with East Timorese Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guteres, Defence Secretary Julio Tomas Pinto and Chief Major Lere Ana of the Falintil-FDTL (Force de Defesa de Timor Leste) on a brief trip to Dili to discuss the military cooperation among the two countries. "I am very happy that the minister of Australia reiterated the strong support of Australia to the stability of Timor Leste [East Timor]," Guteres said after the meeting.

Australia and New Zealand have maintained an international stabilization force of around 800 troops in East Timor since 2006 at the invitation of the government.

"It's been a very important opportunity to talk with my Timorese colleges and also hear about the improvements of the security situation," Faulkner said.

East Timor on August 30 celebrated the 10th anniversary of a referendum that launched the territory on its bloody path to independence from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portugese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year.

The 1999 referendum led to a rampage by pro-Indonesian militias, who killed about 1,400 East Timorese and destroyed much of the country's meagre infrastructure.

Security was restored by an international peacekeeping force and the territory was put under United Nations administration until it became an independent country in 2002.

Seven years after independence, the government still has trouble keeping the peace with factions and remnant militias with its local army of 1,300 troops.

"As a country in the modern world we have to count on our neighbors in order to protect our common interest," Guteres said.


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